Minding Our Bodies Newsletter, Issue No. 5

Eating well for mental health! Pilot Programs Swing into Action

The past few months have been quite eventful for phase II of the Minding Our Bodies project, Eating Well for Mental Health, and we are excited about it! After considering 15 expressions of interest, we selected six mental health organizations to pilot a healthy eating program over the fall and early winter months.

To kick off the pilot phase, the Minding Our Bodies team organized an Eating Well for Mental Health training day. Staff and volunteers came together from across the province to make connections, share ideas and enjoy some healthy food. Looking ahead, we have some exciting news about a physical activity training day that’s in the works for February 2011. Read on to learn more.


  • Eating Well for Mental Health Training Day
  • Meet the Pilots
  • Movement, Food and Mood: A Prescription for Healthy Minds
  • Finding Reliable Nutrition and Food Information
  • The Road to Physical Activity Training Day 2011
  • Mental Health Literacy and Skill Development Day for Dietetic Interns and Registered Dietitians

Eating Well for Mental Health Training Day

We met. We ate. We learned. We could sum up our training day in a few sentences, but it would not capture the connections, the presentations or the flavour of the day. Program leaders from across the province were invited to the Eating Well for Mental Health training day based on their expressed interest in becoming involved in the healthy eating phase of the Minding Our Bodies project. Over 20 leaders converged in Toronto on September 23, 2010 at George Brown College to learn and share ideas for healthy eating programming for people with serious mental illness.

The day began with an overview of the Minding Our Bodies project and a brief introduction to the Healthy Communities Fund (from the Ministry of Health Promotion and Sport). Keynote speaker Karen Liberman, Executive Director of the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario, set the tone for the day. Her personal story of recovery engaged participants to think about their healthy eating program from a consumer/survivor perspective.

Personal stories were also shared by Minding Our Bodies program dietitian Karen Trainoff, who spoke about the relationship between food and mood, and panel presenter Zora Ignjatovic, who introduced her living food boxes to demonstrate how garden programming can pop out of a box.

Other presenters highlighted a range of innovative programs:

  • Brian Walmark and Robert Thomas presented the garden box program organized by Keewaytinook Okimakanak and illustrated the empowerment that can come from eating what you grow and learning about traditional medicinal plants.
  • Elizabeth Branton presented the Healthy Living Program at CMHA Durham, where a primary care clinic, self-management education and active living programming are combined to support people with mental illness and metabolic syndrome.
  • Tara Laing shared her experience facilitating community kitchen groups at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Accommodation, Information and Support, a supportive housing agency.
  • Tony Priolo showcased George Brown’s Augmented Education Programs, including the Assistant Chef Extended Training Program which provides training and employment in the food service industry for people with addiction and mental health problems. George Brown College also generously provided the venue for our Eating Well for Mental Health training day.

Resources were shared on evaluation planning (Dayna Albert from Towards Evidence-Informed Practice and the CAPTURE project) and the role of public health dietitians and related resources (Cindy Scythes from the Nutrition Resource Centre). The presence of Minding Our Bodies advisory committee members was also appreciated. Before the day was done, small-group discussions brought out ideas to overcome barriers to program delivery. The Minding Our Bodies evaluation process for the overall project was introduced by Carolyn Steele Gray.

Participants provided very positive and helpful feedback and those who responded added their names to the draw for prizes: Tara Laing won a design award-winning measuring spoon and Don Miles won a copy of the STOP Community Food Centre cookbook.

The Eating Well for Mental Health training day showed that all eyes were on the ultimate prize of healthy eating program success. CMHA Ontario plans to continue fostering the connections made by training day participants by facilitating an open community of practice.

See the Minding Our Bodies website at www.mindingourbodies.ca/about_the_project/eating_well_training_day_2010 for links to the training day presentations. A summary of results from the training day evaluation forms will be shared with participants in the near future.

Meet the Pilots

At the end of June, the Minding Our Bodies team put out a request for expressions of interest to participate in the Eating Well for Mental Health pilot program. Organizations were encouraged to propose a new healthy eating program for consumers, work in partnership with other community organizations and create opportunities for consumer leadership.

Our team received 15 expressions of interest from mental health agencies, consumer/survivor initiatives, community health centres and other community service providers. We were thrilled with the interest level and the quality of the applications. After much deliberation, the team decided on six organizations that have since received seed funding to run a pilot program between September and December of this year.

Located in regions across Ontario, including both rural and urban settings, these organizations serve different populations and needs. All pilots will evaluate their local programs and contribute to the overall project evaluation. We look forward to seeing the pilot outcomes, both short and long-term, and will be sharing them through the community of practice. We would like to thank our pilots, as well as all applicants, for their time, effort and desire to help people with mental illness.

Let’s take a look at who they are and what they’ll be doing to bring healthy eating to their participants.

Keewaytinook Okimakanak
(Ontario’s far north)

Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO) is a tribal council in Thunder Bay which serves community members in six First Nations in Ontario’s far north: Fort Severn, Keewaywin, North Spirit Lake, Poplar Hill, McDowell Lake and Deer Lake. In response to prohibitive travelling costs in the north, KO constructed the Kuh-Ke-Nah Network, which is Canada’s largest First Nations community-owned and operated broadband network. This network has allowed KO to increase access to health and mental health services, and provide education and training opportunities to community members For more information, visit www.knet.ca.

Talking about Eating Well for Mental Health:  Making Better Choices

KO’s pilot program will involve the creation and delivery of six educational video workshop sessions, which will be presented over the Kuh-Ke-Nah Network. These sessions will be designed to raise awareness and increase knowledge among First Nations community members experiencing mental health issues and will highlight the following topics:

  • Food budgeting and menu planning
  • Label reading
  • Garden boxes
  • Food safety
  • Cooking skills

Upon completion, a “virtual feast” will be held for the pilot project participants to eat together and share stories via video teleconference. This virtual feast will provide an opportunity for participants to contribute ingredients grown in their garden boxes to a salad for everyone at their location to share.

CMHA Huron-Perth Branch (Stratford)

The Canadian Mental Health Association, Huron-Perth Branch provides programs and services for people with mental disorders and promotes mental health for all those living in Huron and Perth Counties. Their programs and services include case management, permanent and transitional housing, court support, concurrent disorder support, volunteer connections, family support and a consumer initiative. For more information, visit www.cmha-hp.on.ca.

The FRESH Project (Food, Recovery, Exercise, Skills, Hope)

CMHA Huron-Perth will offer a group-based pilot program focused on gaining healthy eating and physical activity knowledge, developing practical skills and making social connections. The program will run for six weeks and will include two classes per week: six sessions in the community kitchen and six sessions of various physical activities. In the community kitchen sessions, participants will increase their food preparation and budgeting skills, as well as learn why and how to buy local and fresh foods. They will meet with individuals who work in the food industry, which will help participants develop relationships and improve their sense of community. The physical activities will introduce participants to activities in the community that are new, accessible, and affordable for them to continue after the group’s completion. Ultimately, the program aims to strengthen participants’ understanding of the connection between mental health, healthy eating and physical activity.

Algoma Public Health Community Mental Health Program (Elliot Lake)

The Algoma Public Health Community Mental Health Program sponsors psychiatric case management and housing programs for individuals, 16 and over, who experience severe and persistent mental illness. Their programs and services include intensive case management, community treatment orders, supportive housing/rent supplements and a community
rehabilitation program. For more information, visit

Collective Community Kitchen – “Good Food, New Friends”

Algoma Public Health will pilot the development of a community kitchen in partnership with the Bee Hive, a consumer initiative drop-in centre in Elliot Lake. The pilot will include 15 participants divided into two groups. Each group will meet twice for a maximum of 10 hours/group and will include the following topics:

  • Economical shopping methods (coupons, sales, sticking to a list)
  • Healthy choices and menu planning
  • Food preparation and food handling safety
  • Cooking skills

The community kitchen hopes to foster an environment of inclusiveness and support where participants can increase their social networks. As well, it will provide two members trained as peer support leaders with leadership roles as co-facilitators within the project.

Mood Disorders Association of Ontario (Toronto)

The Mood Disorders Association of Ontario helps individuals and families affected by depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety to recover and heal. Working with members, volunteers, other mental health groups and mental health professionals, the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario provides awareness, education and training, family and youth clinical support, recovery programs, and peer support. In recent years, it has increasingly been focused on initiatives that encourage routine mental health screening and early intervention to catch and treat mental health issues early. For more information, visit www.mooddisorders.on.ca.

Boost Your Mood: Move, Eat and Be Healthy

This pilot program will present healthy eating and exercise components in an integrated manner, facilitated by a registered dietitian and an accredited personal trainer. The program includes a walking grocery tour, food skill demos, recipe and menu planning with a physical activity component as part of each session. The lesson plans created for this pilot project will be used in the subsequent development of a train-the-trainer program that could be offered in other areas of the province. One or two participants from each of the other four applicant organizations in the central area will be invited to attend the Mood Disorders Association’s training sessions, participate in the program evaluation and make recommendations for content and training needs to aid in this process and inspire programs in their own organizations.

Northern Initiative for Social Action (Sudbury)

Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA) is an organization run by and for consumers of mental health services. They develop occupational skills, nurture self-confidence and provide resources for recovery, by creating opportunities for participants to contribute to their own well-being and that of their community. Some of the occupational training and work opportunities offered by NISA include computer refurbishing and resale, artist and writer groups, café customer service and cash skills, research exploration and discussion, and a community kitchen and garden. For more information, visit www.nisa.on.ca.

Food Is Mood: Eating Well for Mental Health

NISA will offer free workshops for 20-30 consumers over 10 weeks, focusing on lower-income living and food preparation. They will aim to provide hands-on skills to low-income people, identifying some very easy and economical ways to prepare food and to have a healthy and balanced diet. This will include culturally accessible and safe food practices, researched and delivered with project partners, most notably N’Swakamok Native Friendship Centre and the Sudbury and District Health Unit. After cooking together in the hands-on workshops, participants will be able to bring home a portion of the prepared food. The program will be documented in a cookbook, providing dietitian-approved recipes, and stories and photos from the consumer/survivor participants. This cookbook will be available to organizations and individuals throughout the city of Sudbury. You can also follow the progress of NISA’s project on their blog at foodismood.wordpress.com.

CMHA Peterborough Branch (Peterborough)

The Canadian Mental Health Association, Peterborough Branch provides services to individuals 16-65 years of age and families who are living with a mental illness in Peterborough and surrounding area. They offer a multitude of services and programs, including case management, crisis and early intervention programs, community support services, and health promotion and education. For more information, visit www.peterborough.cmha.on.ca.

Food for Mood Nutrition and Cooking Program

CMHA Peterborough Branch will pilot eight educational sessions for 15 clients, consisting of:

  • Food safety and sanitization
  • Kitchen terms, tools, techniques and ingredients
  • Food shopping and meal planning
  • Food handling, storage and preservation
  • Tips to eating well on a budget
  • Cooking skills with a focus on teaching easy and delicious meal and snack preparation using healthier foods
  • Saving time, cutting costs and having fun making healthy food

The cooking portion of the group is specifically geared to low-income individuals and their families and will teach participants how to purchase, store and prepare food on a budget, while highlighting nutrition’s impact on mental well-being. As an incentive, participants will receive a food and grocery card at the end of each class. CMHA Peterborough’s pilot project aims to increase clients’ awareness of the value of healthy living, and promote active living and healthy eating to support recovery, enhance readiness to change and foster social inclusion.

Movement, Food and Mood: A Prescription for Healthy Minds

“The treatment of depression today is the best of psychotherapy interventions, when needed the best medicine, and indeed dietary aspects as well as aspects around physical expenditure.” In other words, therapy combined with healthy eating, exercise and drugs when necessary.

That was the prescription for wellness given by Dr. Roger McIntyre to more than 70 people who attended the recent Distinguished Speaker Series event hosted by the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario. As Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology at the University of Toronto and Head of the Mood Disorders Psychopharmacology Unit at the University Health Network, Dr. McIntyre’s research focuses on the association between mood disorders and other medical conditions.

Dr. McIntyre told the audience that while a chemical imbalance in the brain is certainly part of the cause of mood disorders, it’s not the only one. Research is showing a link between mood disorders and what’s known as metabolic syndrome (defined by high levels of “bad” cholesterol, low levels of ”good” cholesterol, abdominal obesity, high blood pressure and high fasting blood glucose levels). In fact, people with mood disorders have higher rates of all of these metabolic problems than the general population, pointing to a close relationship between the two and a greater risk of premature death from heart disease, stroke and diabetes. In our efforts to treat mood disorders, observed Dr. McIntyre, “we’ve forgotten to take care of physical health.”

Obesity and mood disorders are closely related. Dr. McIntyre concludes that it’s impossible for people with depression or bipolar disorder who are also obese to get fully well unless they lose weight. “If people do lose weight, their mood begins to improve.”

The Mood Disorders Association of Ontario is taking Dr. McIntyre’s prescription to heart, offering new free programs focusing on healthy bodies as well as healthy minds, and taking an active part in the Minding Our Bodies project.

For more information about MDAO and upcoming events in the Distinguished Speaker Series, visit www.mooddisorders.on.ca.

Finding Reliable Nutrition and Food Information

Are you confused by all the different messages you hear about food? How can you find trustworthy information? We have your answer!

Cindy Scythes of the Nutrition Resource Centre and speaker at our training day shares her helpful tips and suggestions for finding reliable nutrition and food information. Her resource includes information evaluation, consumer nutrition advice, food labeling, food safety, and useful cookbooks. Find this and many more training day resources in the Minding Our Bodies toolkit at www.mindingourbodies.ca/toolkit/resources/finding_reliable_nutrition_and....

The Road to Physical Activity Training Day 2011

In February 2011, Minding Our Bodies will host a Physical Activity for Mental Health training day for program leaders. The purpose of this event is to share expertise and lessons learned from the physical activity phase of the Minding Our Bodies project with mental health agencies and their community partners.

The training day is made possible by a generous donation from John Walton and nine lifelong friends who organize the annual “Monster” bike ride to raise funds for a good cause. Since mental health issues have significantly affected his family, John chose to donate funds raised in 2010 to the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario. The approximately 200-kilometre “Monster” bike ride from Niagara Falls to Toronto is a fitting endeavour to promote physical activity for mental health.

We extend our thanks to the people who rode, raised funds and contributed to this ride on June 13, 2010 – the 14th time this group has come together.

Mental Health Literacy & Skill Development Day for Dietetic Interns and Registered Dietitians

The Minding Our Bodies team has partnered with the Dietitians of Canada to offer complementary professional development days, for dietetic interns and registered dietitians, on the relationship between healthy eating and mental health.

Registered dietitians are an integral component of the healthcare team. We are delighted to be able to provide learning opportunities for dietitians and dietetic interns.

The development days will offer exciting learning opportunities that will focus on mental health literacy and experiential skill development as it relates to the field of dietetics. It is our hope that participants will come away with the following:

  • improved mental health literacy
  • relevant, evidenced-based knowledge from a clinical, physiological and societal viewpoint
  • increased community of practice

We are looking forward to the development days, which will occur in Toronto at the end of November and in Ottawa in mid-December. We would like to thank our program dietitian, Karen Trainoff, for all her hard work on this endeavour. Look for a follow-up report in our next issue!

Dates to Keep in Mind!

With all the great work going on over the next couple of months, we look forward to sharing ideas, resources and lessons learned. Watch our online toolkit for new healthy eating information and program descriptions.

November 2010: Healthy Eating Teleconference for pilot participants

Spring 2011: Physical Activity for Mental Health Training Day