What is the connection between food and mood, and how can schools harness this in their approach to mental health?
After receiving funding from the Alaskan Seafood Marketing Institute, Food for Life set out on a ten month project to explore how we can support schools in their approach to mental health and wellbeing through good food.
We are pleased to share the findings of our project in light of Children’s Mental Health Week, to help grow our understanding of food and mood in schools.
Connecting food and mental wellbeing
Currently the average UK diet is very low in fresh fruit and vegetables with nine out of ten children eating less than 3.5 portions a day.
Food for Life advocates for a balanced and fresh diet that is good for us and the planet. A healthy diet is not only good for our physical health, but research is showing that it can also contribute to our mental health.
Food and Mood Project
We’ve been busy over the past year working with schools across England to gain insight about their understanding of food and mood. The findings revealed that pupils, teachers and staff all wanted to learn more about the connection between food and mood.
During the school’s summer break, we worked with the Food for Life service design team to create activities and resources to help them learn more about the subject, such as creating a “feelings cafe”.
In the Autumn term, pupils and teachers were able to use our resources to complete interactive and fun lesson activities to encourage the children to start thinking about the food they eat and how it affects how they feel.
We were blown away by the feedback we received following the project. The schools reported that they enjoyed taking part and children were inspired to ask further questions about food and mood.
Ask an Expert Film
We didn’t stop there. We asked children how they wanted to learn about what they eat and their mental health and wellbeing. Their response? Role models and experts.
To answer all their burning questions, we created a ten-minute video featuring a range of carefully selected specialists, experts, celebrities, and role models. TV Chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Tommi Miers among other food and mental health experts kindly gave their time to record responses to children’s questions in a film that would be shown in schools.
“I’m delighted to be involved in Food for Life’s Food & Mood project. This is something we should all be thinking about now more than ever. It is great to see Food for Life helping schools and children explore the links between a healthy balanced diet and good mental health and wellbeing. Making these vital connections when we are young sets us up for a happier healthier life." Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
View the film here
Impacts of the Food and Mood project
The Food and Mood project produced some valuable insights about the understanding of the links between mental health, wellbeing and food in schools.
It's highlighted opportunities for Food for Life to ensure that more pupils, teachers, caterers, and parents enjoy and understand the mental health benefits of a well-balanced diet through education, training and catering support.
The activities with schools as part of this project also had a number of positive impacts, including:
- Our dining room interventions had positive impact both on catering staff confidence AND on pupil’s ability to understand menus and chose healthy meals.
- Our classroom activities encouraged pupils to explore how what they eat impacts on how they feel.
- Our work in the schools helped teachers to bring up conversations around food and mental health in a number of topics, ranging from science through to RE.
What’s coming next?
Between January – March 2022 the Ask an Expert film will be offered to all schools in Food for Life commissioned areas as part of a campaign focusing on health and mental wellbeing.
We would also like to develop our resources to be rolled out to all primary schools in Food for Life commissioned areas, which would reach over 500 schools. These interactive and accessible resources proved to be a great way to engage schools in bridging the connection between food and mood.
So far, the project has opened up conversations about how food impacts the way you feel and there were many responses about comfort eating. It would be interesting in a follow up project to further explore and stress the impacts a healthy diet can have on positive wellbeing.
Thank you to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute partnering with us to help build Food for Life’s schools understanding of the connections between mental health, wellbeing and food.
If you would like more information on the project, please contact Charlotte Long at email@example.com