EatWell is a healthy eating project for anyone who struggles to maintain a healthy diet, particularly low income families. Using creative and engaging methods, we work with people to make healthy choices easy and accessible from learning healthy takeaway style meals, to painting plates to visualise portion sizes.
Our project aimed to target individuals and families in Sheffield who have a poor diet. We used data to assess the level of need in Sheffield and found that poor health and poor diet are highly prevalent across the city. Our research highlighted factors which indicate a poor diet or high risk of poor diet. For example, we found that 60% of people in Sheffield are overweight or obese (Sheffield Food Strategy 2014) and that 40,000 people across the city are experiencing food poverty (Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2000). Research also highlighted that 30,000 people across Sheffield are malnourished (Cabinet Office 2008) and only 25% of people across the city eat a healthy diet (Health of England Survey 2010).
We co-designed a programme of activities with the people who are intended beneficiaries of the project. To date we have delivered:
- plate painting classes to children and families to help visualise the correct portion sizes on a plate
- green Eggs & Ham food tasting sessions to encourage children to try new foods and support a varied diet
- fakeaway cooking classes to teach people healthy versions of traditional takeaway meals
- Shop and Share groups where we connected neighbours and local people to shop collectively and share their food to take advantage of costs benefits of bulk buying and to support and motivate each other with healthy choices
For the first 6 months, the project was evaluated by CRESR at Sheffield Hallam University.
Participation in the EatWell project has shown to have the following impacts after a 6 month period:
- increased likelihood of eating fruit and vegetables
- improved wellbeing; participants reported feeling more satisfied with their life, happier and less anxious
Feedback from people involved included:
- Lily (age 7) – ‘I love helping my mum make tea now, I like to see what ingredients we’re using and how it’s done. I also love mango now, ever since I tried it at the EatWell class.’
- Lucie (age 34) – ‘Thoroughly enjoyed it. Fantastic idea to get kids excited about healthy eating, it’s been so much fun and now we’re making changes for life.’
- PJ (age 9) – ‘I’m so glad you let me try dragonfruit, it sounds cool and looks cool. It’s my new favourite.’
In the future we hope to measure the impact on Patient Activation Measures to see if participants become more able to manage their health.
We’re working with Nourish, a healthy fast food company. As a private sector organisation with expertise in health and nutrition they have been able to advise South Yorkshire Housing Association, our staff and customers on how to maintain a healthy diet. We’ve also benefited from their networks and social media presence throughout this project.
We have also partnered with Shirecliffe Community Centre and Longley4G to make use of the physical assets within the local communities where we work.
Cross-sector partnership has had the primary benefit of achieving a greater level of reach and engagement than would otherwise be attained.
Home is the place where people build their relationship with food; it’s where we store our food, cook our food and eat our food too. For this reason, it’s key that people and their homes are set up to aid health eating; from having the right equipment to knowing where you can buy the best value fruit and veg locally.
Additionally, we know that when people have just moved into a new home there is a window of opportunity to influence their behaviours. By providing them with kitchen equipment, we can motivate people to cook rather than using takeaways.
Our role as a housing association also enabled us to achieve scale and reach across different communities and to engage the harder to engage.
Our contribution to improving health
Healthy eating has a direct impact on multiple areas of health. By supporting people to eat more healthily we can reduce their risks of multiple health conditions, including heart disease to diabetes.
Engaging in this project also intended to build people’s social connections and improve their wellbeing. Improved wellbeing and social connections can reduce the risk of social isolation which has a similar impact on health to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
By providing people with additional skills and knowledge we hoped to increase their levels of health ‘activation’ meaning that they feel a greater level of control over their own health and feel more able to manage their health independently.