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Health & Wellbeing

Why Food for Life?

Learn about the rationale behind our Food for Life programme

The rationale behind the model

Hackney has high levels of child and adult obesity, which impact adversely on our community’s health and wellbeing. There is robust evidence of causal relationships between poor diet and high blood pressure, cancer, tooth decay and cardiovascular disease.

However, many traditional frameworks require a technical understanding of nutritional content or demand calorie counting, which rarely engage people.

It is vital that nutritional educational frameworks pay reference to the income level of the participants and recognise the impact of poverty and lack of time on dietary choices.

Food for Life is dedicated to affordable, speedy, hands-on healthy eating and cooking activities. The sessions give people a fun, informal, straightforward way to achieve a healthy diet. We focus on the joy in making something from scratch, preparing and sharing food with others, discovering new and interesting flavours and gaining confidence in the kitchen.

What makes Food for Life special?

  • All of our recipes are easy to understand and use affordable, accessible ingredients.
  • We encourage a balanced diet, which means variety - and the occasional treat too!
  • We favour flavour, using plenty of fresh ingredients, whole grains, herbs and spices.
  • We prepare things from scratch whenever possible.
  • We adapt trusty favourite recipes to make them healthier, without compromising on taste.

Improvements in dietary balance and nutrition 

The model is based upon strong evidence from reviewed research studies. We also supported an independent evaluation of the programme by the Centre for Social Justice and Change at the University of East London.

Researchers reviewed outcomes from 33 Food for Life courses, carried out questionnaires with over 40 participants who had recently undertaken a course and held in depth interviews with eight people. They found that

  • 80% of people who took part in a Food for Life session reported that they now cook more for themselves, family and friends.
  • 74% of people reported eating fewer processed or ‘ready meals’
  • 73% reported eating less salty and/or sugary foods and
  • 69% reported eating more fresh fruit and vegetables

Improvements in mental health

Food for Life courses are designed to increase knowledge, skills, and confidence in meal planning, budgeting, healthy eating and cooking.

However, our work with people recovering from mental health problems and living with complex health needs has shown that the courses can also improve people’s confidence in social settings and reduce feelings of loneliness and social isolation,

More than half of participants felt more optimistic about the future, better about themselves and more able to talk to other people after taking part in a Food for Life the course.

Ongoing research

Food for Life is carrying out research with women and families who are new to the UK, looking at the impact of eating on a low income, cooking for multi-generational families and the children’s eating patterns. 

Our partners

Food for Life is proud to work with organisations across Hackney, including:

City & Hackney Mind
St Monica’s Primary School
Thomas Fairchild Children’s Centre and Primary School
Shoreditch Park Primary School
Tyssen Primary School
Hackney Ark
Southern Housing
Everyone Health
Young Hackney
Deaf Plus
Chance UK
Well Street GP Surgery
Anchor Hanover Housing
East London Foundation Trust