Food for Mood - Nutrition Program

The mission of CMHA Peterborough is to work with individuals, families and community partners in providing services to promote and enhance the mental health and wellness of those living within the communities we serve. We were selected to run a pilot program by the Minding Our Bodies project who funded our program through a Healthy Community Fund from the Ministry of Health Promotion and Sport. 

Our Food for Mood Nutrition program promotes healthy living for people with serious mental illness to support recovery. It is an eight week program run jointly with other community partners in Peterborough. The program accommodates 12 participants who are living with a serious mental illness and have a goal of living a healthier lifestyle. The program consists of learning new skills to increase awareness of healthy eating such as:

• Food safety and sanitation, including knife safety, hand washing, back care, and cross contamination
• Kitchen terms, tools, techniques and ingredients
• Grocery shopping, label reading, price comparison and meal planning
• Food handling, storage and preservation
• Tips to eating well on a budget
• How food affects mood and how mood affects what we eat
• Cooking skills — with a focus on easy and delicious meal and snack preparation using vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish, low-fat dairy, lean meat and beneficial fats; and a decrease in the use of pre-packaged, processed and refined foods high in sweeteners, sodium, saturated and trans fat, artificial ingredients and preservatives
• Saving time, cutting costs and having fun making healthy food

Throughout the program, on a more informal level, we covered topics such as education around Diabetes, heart health, smoking cessation, substance use, physical activity, mental health and stigma, and metabolic syndrome.

We kept cost in mind for our clients and each participant received a $10 grocery card at the end of each class. Clients were also encouraged to take the cooked food and recipes home with them. The program was facilitated by two Case Managers, a Chef and some volunteers.

Our nutrition program is jointly run with Peterborough County City Health Unit, a leader in promoting and protecting health in Peterborough County and City. By establishing a partnership with this health unit we were able to run our program with their Chef, Health Promoter and Educator, Peter McCarthy.

We also partnered with St. Andrew's United Church in Peterborough, using their kitchen to run our program. They offered a subsidized rental of their space and provided a safe, accepting and supportive space for our group participants.

We devoted considerable attention to the role that consumers can play in addressing the quality of the program and providing leadership. We encouraged consumers to develop a voice and enable their needs to be heard, while encouraging the development of responsible community leadership. The group participants were involved in each step of the program including planning the recipes, activities and topics. One of our group participants became a leader in the program, researching recipes and topics, encouraging and motivating others and took on the role of leading a grocery store tour and facilitating one of the groups.

We used evaluation tools such as pre-tests, post-tests, surveys and focus groups throughout the program. The feedback was very positive and the results showed that all of the participants have taken the healthy skills they learned and are implementing them in their own homes. This includes increasing their consumption of more fruits and vegetables and decreasing their use of pre-packaged / convenience foods. All of the participants reported that social inclusion was an important aspect of the program, building their support system and increasing their confidence and self esteem.

We were able to meet many of our goals for the program including:

• Increasing clients’ awareness of healthy living and the value of incorporating nutrition and exercise into their lifestyle;
• Promoting active living and healthy eating for people with serious mental illness to support recovery;
• Enhancing readiness to change;
• Improving mental well-being; foster and support social inclusion

The main challenge of the program was that it needed to be planned and implemented in a short time span. We also would have benefited from capacity building resources such as a Peer Support Worker to help plan, develop and implement the program.

For more information, contact:

Marcy Worral
Case Manager
Canadian Mental Health Association, Peterborough Branch
466 George Street North
Peterborough, Ontario
K9H 3R7
Phone Number: 705-748-6711
E-Mail: mworral [at] peterborough [dot] cmha [dot] on [dot] ca


Canadian Mental Health Association, Peterborough Branch
466 George Street North
Peterborough, ON K9H 3R7
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