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Food projects serve up healthy lifestyles

4 October 2012

A recent evaluation revealed the Big Lottery Fund’s Well-being programme has helped people experience a life satisfaction over three times greater than if they doubled their income.

Dean Clough School

BIG’s Dharmendra Kanani visits the Focus on Food Cooking Bus on site at The Cooking School at Dean Clough

And BIG’s England Director Dharmendra Kanani got to hear first-hand about the difference made by two innovative projects funded through the programme when he recently visited the Yorkshire and Humber region.

Over the last five years, Focus on Food and Altogether Better have been taking an original approach to spreading the healthy lifestyle message across Yorkshire and beyond.

In 2007 Focus on Food received a grant through the BIG-funded Food for Life Partnership to set up a Cooking Bus to travel the length and breadth of the country’s communities to teach young people and teachers how to cook healthy meals. On any week between 100 and 250 children and adults have been using the bus and it has visited over 180 schools and community centres.

Since 2008, Altogether Better has been working to recruit, train and support over 17,000 volunteer community health champions to work in their local communities and play a crucial role in improving the health and wellbeing of their friends, families and the wider community.

Meeting the projects at The Cooking School at Dean Clough in Halifax, where Focus on Food’s head office is based, Dharmendra said:“It was fantastic to meet volunteers and people who had benefited from these projects, and it was clear that making connections with other people in similar circumstances, as well as being able to use skills for the benefit of communities, was key to the success of these projects.

“It’s sometimes through very simple actions, and by taking a positive approach to meeting peoples’ needs, that the impact can be significant, which is evident in the thousands of people who have improved their lifestyles, are eating better, exercising and helping out in their community. This in turn gives people a very real and important personal sense of wellbeing.”

Dean Clough School

Pupils prepare healthy dishes with fresh ingredients

With both projects going better than the organisations could ever have hoped, Focus on Food and Altogether Better are now planning an exciting partnership which will see them combine their learning and approaches to continue their quest.

Alyson McGregor, Director of Altogether Better, said: “We were thrilled to meet with Dharmendra and be able to show him what a difference our project is making.

“To date, over 100,000 people have benefited from the skills and expertise of our community champions, who have supported people to understand what constitutes a healthy diet, encouraged them to take more exercise or simply been there as someone to talk to.

“We now plan to build on the learning of this approach and continue to make a difference to the lives of people across Yorkshire and beyond by exploring ways we can integrate our community health champions approach with Focus on Food’s innovative cookery buses.”

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