Cooking and eating together in an initiative facilitated by the HSE has helped a group of men on Cork’s Northside to promote better mental health and wellbeing.
Cork Kerry Community Healthcare Resource Officer for Suicide Prevention Martin Ryan ran 10 weeks of cooking classes late last year with a group of men through the local Northside Community Health Initiative (NICHE).
The classes were so successful that the group published a cookbook featuring some of their favourite recipes. The book is now available by contacting NICHE at 021-4300135. The proceeds will fund a further set of classes at a future date.
A trained chef in his earlier career, Martin worked with NICHE to meet a group of local men and develop their cooking skills, all with the aim of promoting better mental health and wellbeing.
The group came together every week to cook meals using produce from the local community garden. At the end of each session, the group sat down together and shared the meal they had created.
Martin said: “The sense of achievement and fun within the programme was evident from the start. It was very humbling to see the men enjoy the fun within the kitchen, and support each other at the same time. It proves that if we thank just a little differently about our approach, long lasting changes can happen.”
The aim of the session was to get the group working together, while talking about the importance of cooking and eating together.
“I’m coming at this from a mental health professional’s perspective using cooking as a tool. We know that when we make slight changes in or choices around food it can have a huge impact on how we deal with difficult and stressful days. It’s a proven fact that diet plays a huge part in our mental fitness as well our physical wellbeing,” Martin added.
The group was developed in partnership between HSE mental health services and the NICHE community garden, which is located on the Northside of Cork city in Hollyhill. The community garden has a dedicated community gardener who is employed to promote sustainable organic food production within the garden and across the community. From freshly produced food, lunch and cooking workshops are provided to the volunteers, participants and visitors who pop in. NICHE is supported by a number of agencies, including the local HSE community work department.
The video was made and the programme was run late last year before the introduction of COVID 19 related restrictions.