Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Interview: Maggy on The Mini Cooking Club Running a Nutrition Workshop for Evolve

The Mini Cooking Club is a charity which runs sessions for children and adults with mentalhealth concerns, but also nutrition workshops for anyone who wants to learn more about healthy eating. In these workshops, Cecilia - the club’s founder - teaches things like the importance of the “Eat Well Plate”, understading food labelling and cooking nutritious food at home.

We just finished working with Evolve. Evolve is a free, confidential and friendly service for stimulant and cannabis users, and their families living in Southwark. It is run by a lovely woman called Maggy. She works hard with her team to provide fully-trained one-to-one support, facilitate groups and run regular drop-in sessions.

What is the relationship between nutrition and drugs use, and why did Evolve team up with The Mini Cooking Club? I went to see Maggy to ask her views on healthy eating, how it can empower lives, and how she found the Cecilia’s nutrition workshop.

Me:W hy did Evolve and The Mini Cooking Club team up?

Maggy: At Evolve, we realised the importance of understanding food, how it impacts your life and how it can play an empowering role in the recovery process. Since there is a lot of misinformation out there on nutrition, we decided it would be good for staff to have nutritional training so they could give the clients they were supporting the best advice on how to make a positive impact on their lives simply by changing their eating habits. We got in touch with the Copleston inviting Cecilia to provide nutrition workshops!

Me: So what is Evolves’ ethos?

Maggy: We focus on emotional well-being and psychological wellbeing. We look at the whole person. It’s about how we can support that person to make healthier choices in every aspect in their life. This means one of the things we are concerned with is whether those we help are eating a balanced diet.

Me: How did you think The Mini Cooking Club could support you in achieving this?

Maggy: We were looking for nutrition courses that we can refer clients to because clients are actually asking for it. They were aware their lifestyles were changing with what they ate. Their physical health was better – but many hadn’t had prior experience of knowing what a balanced diet was - or how to cook or prepare nutritious food on a budget – and were keen to gain insight on this.

Me: What did they learn, for example?

Maggy: They learned that someone’s mood might be affected because they eat food that is very processed and as a result their bodies aren’t supporting the release of dopamine or serotonin.

Me: And why would you say that is important?

Maggy: Because understanding the positive role of food can be a tool for individuals to change their lifestyles. The current recovery model that all treatment services advocate is recovery capital and supporting individuals coming into treatment – not just to reduce their drug use but to build up support networks and skills and knowledge that will help them go back into a new community. Being able to budget, cook well, see food in a social, joyous way as well as to understand what healthy eating is, is part of that recovery capital.

Me: Does learning help people to build part of a new identity?

Maggy: Definitely. If you take anybody who doesn’t come from a background of substance use and enrol them on a cookery course they invite their friends around as soon as possible. I would say it’s definitely one part of being able to see themselves in a different way and a more positive way. It’s also about people being able to nurture themselves – especially in taking time to budget for good food. A lot of people haven’t experienced what it is to be nurtured.

Me: I agree that food is a part of nurturing yourself. What do you think of The Mini Cooking Club, whose aim is to teach essential cooking skills to those who are underprivileged?

Maggy: I think the Mini Cooking Club is a wonderful charity. Learning to cook on a budget is important, and part of working in this area is to understand what else we can deliver to clients, and how we support those who have very little money.

Me: What did you think was important after the workshop with Cecilia?

Maggy: I think it is a really important idea to help clients plan their meals and budget.  I think clients don’t understand how many calories they might need in a day and what a healthy snack is. It’s about structuring. We do a lot of helping clients structure their days.

Me: What did you think of Cecilia and what did you like?

Maggy: Training was very good and she was very relaxed and approachable trainer. She brought fun to it. I found the information about how misleading food packages can be really interesting. Nutrition can be quite complex. I thought it was good learning about how much fat and sugar we should be aiming for in the day and understanding how we can be misled by food industry and packaging.

Me: That’s great!

All in all, Cecilia’s workshops sound invaluable, and Evolve is an important organisation steadily making a difference in individual’s lives. In this short interview, I learned a lot about how using substances can negatively impact one’s health, and how focusing on healthy eating can bring about immensely positive changes. Hopefully more and more people will be able to access this information to make a positive difference in their lives. I’ll be keen to attend a nutrition workshop myself!

By Jessica Heath

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