Northern Initiative for Social Action: Food is Mood Case Study Report

Submitted by

Michaela Hynie
York Institute for Health Research, Program Evaluation Unit
York University

Carolyn Steele Gray
University of Toronto

March 2011

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Introduction

This case study report overviews and evaluates the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA) Food is Mood program. The Food is Mood program is one of six pilot programs funded by CMHA Ontario’s Minding Our Bodies (MOB) Eating Well for Mental Health program. This report is intended to provide evaluative feedback to the MOB Program Leaders, Advisory Committee, and NISA staff regarding the Food is Mood program.  The evaluative analysis includes context, input, process and product evaluation questions set out in the original Minding Our Bodies evaluation proposal that can be answered by examining the individual pilot programs. The point of this case study report is to provide feedback on the goals, development, implementation, outputs and short-term outcomes of the pilot program in relation to the MOB program and its goals and objectives. The final MOB Eating Well for Mental Health program evaluation report draws on this and other case study reports in order to determine whether the MOB program met its short-term goals, unfolded as planned, and how it could be improved.

Summary

While there were no documented short-term physical and mental health improvements for members who participated in the Food is Mood program, the activities conducted as part of the program may help members meet these goals in the longer term. It will be important for the program leaders to follow up with members who participated in workshops to see if there were improvements in physical and mental health over time. Some evidence of increased social inclusion was also achieved for members who regularly attended sessions. Additional gains in social connectedness might be enhanced by asking for more of a commitment from members to participating, in order to help build relationships between members.

There was excellent development of the community of practice through the new partnerships that were built through the Food is Mood program. The program coordinator sought out local resources to help run the workshops as well as complete the cookbook, which demonstrates that the staff and organization are used to working with partners to get programs implemented.

The Food is Mood program was able to meet overarching goals of NISA, in particular the building of occupational skills for the program coordinator. Participating members also seemed to demonstrate increased self-confidence around cooking and food safety skills. Although it is not directly clear that the Food is Mood program provided access to resources for recovery, the skills learned by participants, specifically skills around food security and tools to promote healthy eating, may help in their recovery. Given that poor food security was identified in the expression of interest as an issue for many of NISA’s members, food security skills may also be important in aiding in those members’ recovery as well. It will be important for NISA to follow up with program participants in order to determine whether the program is meeting these broader organizational goals.
 

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