On World Mental Health Awareness Day (10 October 2023), Ealing Central & Acton MP Dr Rupa Huq shares what it was like meeting Ealing-based MindFood and the work it does in the community.
Just off the Hanger Lane gyratory, MindFood regularly meet in an oasis of greenery at the Cleveley Crescent allotments. It’s now 11 years ago that this Ealing mental health charity was set up to help people tackle stress, depression, anxiety and isolation by connecting them with nature, teaching food-growing and sharing evidence-based tips and techniques like mindfulness to improve wellbeing.
Lucy Clark, programme director, came to MindFood eight years ago initially as a corporate high flyer seeking support for anxiety and depression. As a result of attending sessions she decided she never wanted to work indoors again and left behind her career as food product developer at M&S and retrained in horticultural therapy.
Ms Clark’s own experience is how MindFood operates. All of its session leaders started out as participants, fostering a deep understanding of what they’re dealing with and making them “experts by experience”.
Ms Clark said: “No-one needs to feel alone if they’re feeling overwhelmed: in any given year one in four people in the UK will suffer from with mental ill health, and nearly one in two Londoners say they are more stressed than they feel able to manage. These pre-Covid figures are likely to have increased since with cost of living issues. But by carving out some time to reconnect with nature and with the help of just a few simple self-care tools and strategies, people can soon feel loads better and more equipped to deal with life’s pressures.”
Those who complete the six-session Growing Wellbeing course earn themselves a free trip to Kew Gardens.
The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Awareness Day is “Mental Health is a Universal human right” which is a guiding principle of MindFood. They have also started a partnership with Co-op stores where shoppers can nominate them as a local charity of choice.
Among sessions MindFood run throughout the week are outdoor art and a dedicated men’s group which allows men to have their own peers.
Dr Huq commented: “I grew up off the gyratory so must have passed this space completely obvious to it countless times. It was lovely to take time out from the surrounding hustle and bustle to experience the goodness of the MindFood crew in the fresh air and sunshine on the occasion of World Mental Health Awareness Day and see the valuable work they do.”
Dr Huq added: “I even left the session armed with an interestingly misshapen half cucumber reminiscent of the type of fruit and veg that used to cause such merriment on TV’s That’s Life – true to form as it’s MindFood USP that those involved get to take home food they’ve helped to grow.”
Mindfood is a self referral process to join and participants can sign up here.