Publication

Publication name: Meta-synthesis of findings from evaluations and qualitative interviews of work involving community food and its impact on mental health and wellbeing
Date: 21 April 2014
Description: Community Food and Health (Scotland) commissioned this study to provide an analysis of the outcomes from recent work building evaluation capacity among community based organisations working in the field of food, mental health and wellbeing.

The study carried out a prospective evaluation of CHANGES community health project’s Eat Well – Keep Active programme. It also carried out qualitative interviews with staff from seven community projects who had taken part in CFHS’ Building Evidence of Impact programme in 2012-13, all of whom had developed self- evaluation reports on their project’s work. A meta synthesis of these sources of evidence was undertaken to provide new insight into the pathways that link community food activities and mental health and wellbeing.

Diet quality is generally assumed to be the major mechanistic pathway to mental health improvement and is thus the major focus of evaluation. The analysis suggests that it is the use of food as a tool to support people to overcome barriers to social interaction and self-confidence, partly through building skills and knowledge which act as the key pathways to improve mental health and wellbeing among participants.

The study concludes that community based food activities offer the opportunity to develop skills, confidence, and social connections, in addition to improving food knowledge and skills, but that standard evaluation tools may fail to capture many aspects of the changes that people experience. This provides a key opportunity for community – academic partnerships to develop rigorous alternative evaluation tools.
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