Blog by Helen Sandwell, November 2021

A month before the world was brought to a Covid standstill, Food Matters held its first meeting with HMP Send to discuss a planned 2-year project which was to be funded by a grant from the Ministry of Justice Innovations fund. We were so excited to have assured funding for this substantial period which would enable us to run our Food Matters Inside and Out programme over a time long enough for it to be embedded within the prison and evaluated in a meaningful way by our university partners.

The realisation that our project needed to be put on hold for a minimum of 6 months, maybe longer, came as a shock to each of us sitting in our home offices. As it turned out it would be 18 months before we were once again able to sit round a table with staff at Send and talk to them face-to-face.

Meanwhile we were left with a feeling of impotence, as we heard of the difficulties inside prisons, and of the strain that near total 24/7 lockdown was having on both inmates and staff alike. The only way we could reach the women in Send at that point was going to be through the printed word.

HER WELLBEING

Our thoughts were with the women whose mental health was being adversely affected by the rigid conditions of lockdown in a prison. Astonishingly, more than 70% of women in prisons report having a mental health problem[i] and it was thought that these numbers would escalate dramatically with lockdown.  We discussed how we could use our knowledge and connections to provide a newsletter to help women support their own mental health through food and other lifestyle interventions. Then an additional amount of funding allowed our musings to become reality and Her Wellbeing was born.Her Wellbeing

We were confident in writing about food, our area of expertise, and for other material we approached organisations and individuals who we knew from our work in prisons, and who were experts in their own fields. The pilot issue went out to every woman at Send in August 2020 and featured an article by psychologist and former Bake-Off finalist Kimberley Wilson, whose particular interest is mental health and diet. Its popularity grew and twelve months on, we are proud to say that Her Wellbeing now reaches every woman serving a custodial sentence in the UK.

It would be easy to pump out generic wellbeing advice picked up from magazines or the internet, but for it to be meaningful to incarcerated women in has to be relevant to their circumstances. For this reason, we write recipes that women can make without cooking, from ingredients available to them, and we feature activities which we know take place in a prison somewhere, so doable in others too.

“The main changes that I’ve made to my diet is eating more fruit – to reach for an apple instead of a biscuit.” ~ Feel Good Food Club Participant

To make Her Wellbeing really relevant, and reflecting the Food Matters ethos, we encourage conversation; we listen to our readers and we include articles which women have told us they would like to read. As a result of one such conversation, we devoted the whole of issue 9 to the menopause.

HIS WELLBEING

The next logical step is to provide a similar publication for the men’s prison estate, which is why we are currently trialling and collecting feedback on a pilot edition. His Wellbeing will go into production in 2022, so do get in touch if you would like your prison to receive it.

Another endeavour which was unlikely to have come about without Covid and Her Wellbeing, was the creation of an in-cell learning programme, The Feel Good Food Club. This is in-cell learning with a twist because by registering, women become part of a nationwide community and are able to interact through and contribute to a members’ section of Her Wellbeing.

The feedback on the Club has been overwhelmingly positive so far, with only one person deciding, “I’m bored now and won’t be doing any more.” We could have taken offence at this, but instead we listen, and we learn.  All feedback, good and bad, helps mould our future practice.

[i] Bromley Briefings Fact File Winter 2021. Prison Reform Trust

If you are interested in this work and wish to support us in what we do, please donate. 

Blog by Helen Sandwell, November 2021

A month before the world was brought to a Covid standstill, Food Matters held it’s first meeting with HMP Send to discuss a planned 2-year project which was to be funded by a grant from the Ministry of Justice Innovations fund. We were so excited to have assured funding for this substantial period which would enable us to run our Food Matters Inside and Out programme over a time long enough for it to be embedded within the prison and evaluated in a meaningful way by our university partners.

The realisation that our project needed to be put on hold for a minimum of 6 months, maybe longer, came as a shock to each of us sitting in our home offices. As it turned out it would be 18 months before we were once again able to sit round a table with staff at Send and talk to them face-to-face.

Meanwhile we were left with a feeling of impotence, as we heard of the difficulties inside prisons, and of the strain that near total 24/7 lockdown was having on both inmates and staff alike. The only way we could reach the women in Send at that point was going to be through the printed word.

Our thoughts were with the women whose mental health was being adversely affected by the rigid conditions of lockdown in a prison. Astonishingly, more than 70% of women in prisons report having a mental health problem[i] and it was thought that these numbers would escalate dramatically with lockdown.  We discussed how we could use our knowledge and connections to provide a newsletter to help women support their own mental health through food and other lifestyle interventions. Then an additional amount of funding allowed our musings to become reality and Her Wellbeing was born.

We were confident in writing about food, our area of expertise, and for other material we approached organisations and individuals who we knew from our work in prisons, and who were experts in their own fields. The pilot issue went out to every woman at Send in August 2020 and featured an article by psychologist and former Bake-Off finalist Kimberley Wilson, whose particular interest is mental health and diet. Its popularity grew and twelve months on, we are proud to say that Her Wellbeing now reaches every woman serving a custodial sentence in the UK.

It would be easy to pump out generic wellbeing advice picked up from magazines or the internet, but for it to be meaningful to incarcerated women in has to be relevant to their circumstances. For this reason, we write recipes that women can make without cooking, from ingredients available to them, and we feature activities which we know take place in a prison somewhere, so doable in others too.

“The main changes that I’ve made to my diet is eating more fruit – to reach for an apple instead of a biscuit.” ~ Feel Good Food Club Participant

To make Her Wellbeing really relevant, and reflecting the Food Matters ethos, we encourage conversation; we listen to our readers and we include articles which women have told us they would like to read. As a result of one such conversation, we devoted the whole of issue 9 to the menopause.

The next logical step is to provide a similar publication for the men’s prison estate, which is why we are currently trialling and collecting feedback on a pilot edition. His Wellbeing will go into production in 2022, so do get in touch if you would like your prison to receive it.

Another endeavour which was unlikely to have come about without Covid and Her Wellbeing, was the creation of an in-cell learning programme, The Feel Good Food Club. This is in-cell learning with a twist because by registering, women become part of a nationwide community and are able to interact through and contribute to a members’ section of Her Wellbeing.

The feedback on the Club has been overwhelmingly positive so far, with only one person deciding, “I’m bored now and won’t be doing any more.” We could have taken offence at this, but instead we listen, and we learn.  All feedback, good and bad, helps mould our future practice.

[i] Bromley Briefings Fact File Winter 2021. Prison Reform Trust

If you are interested in this work and wish to support us in what we do, please donate. 

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