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Food Nation aiming pie in fight to strengthen social connections


Mar 13, 2018

Could the humble pie be the key to helping men live happier, healthier and longer lives?

Pioneering Newcastle-based social enterprise Food Nation believes so – and it’s secured nearly £100,000 of funding from the Movember Foundation to launch a pilot scheme to help prove it.

The money is being invested in developing a Men’s Pie Club.

The simple but innovative idea will see men brought together through a shared love of pies to taste, cook and eat.

But more importantly it’s hoped the initiative – being launched tonight [MARCH 9] at George Street Social in Newcastle during what is British Pie Week – will act as a catalyst in the fight against male social isolation and physical and mental health problems, as well as improve nutrition.

Men’s Pie Clubs will be instigated this spring at venues across Tyneside, and if the pilot scheme proves a success could see the format rolled out not just across the UK but internationally.

The club is the brainchild of Food Nation founder Jamie Sadler, who is working with the national Men’s Health Forum to develop the idea.

Colin Mallen, Food Nation’s Men’s Pie Club project coordinator, says: “Social isolation and loneliness is not just growing among older men who may have retired or have less contact with family and friends than their female counterparts, but research shows there is an issue in other age groups too caused by unemployment, low income, ethnicity and sexuality.

“Both emotional states have been identified as key issues in relation to poor health, depression and mental decline.

“The Men’s Pie Club feeds into the culture of food bringing people together, forging bonds, making conversation, empowering them, and as a result creating a happier, healthier lifestyle.

“It is a simple yet innovative and fresh idea that taps into hundreds of thousands of years of shared history that has shown us that food is about far more than just survival.

“A pie club may seem odd given the bad press they receive for being unhealthy, but at the end of the day, who doesn’t love a hearty and comforting pie? The Men’s Pie Club will be a place of leisure where males can come together to informally learn about food, share skills and knowledge, achieve and socially interact.

“We are delighted to be working with the Movember Foundation and to be part of its Social Innovators Challenge. Going forward, we will be working closely with the Men’s Health Forum to develop this work, and we can’t wait to get cracking.”

Food Nation’s Men’s Pie Club is one of 13 projects that have received pilot funding as part of the Movember Foundation’s Social Innovators Challenge. This is a £2.6m phased multi-year investment in men’s mental health projects aimed at strengthening social community connections for them across Australia, Canada and Britain.

The goal of the initiative is to increase understanding about what works in helping men form strong, lasting and meaningful relationships that can be called upon when help and support is needed.

The challenge was initiated in 2015 when the Movember Foundation appealed for original, outside-the-box ideas that could lead to game-changing products or services to increase the quantity and quality of men’s relationships, thereby strengthening their sense of belonging, to improve mental wellbeing.

Proposals were reviewed by an independent panel of experts, which included representatives from participating countries as well as the United States.

The chosen projects – which include not just Food Nation’s Men’s Pie Club but schemes targeting armed forces veterans in Australia, and incarcerated fathers in Canada – aim to reach men through a number of mediums, including sport, food, and gaming.

The programmes will run for two years to build evidence around what works for men.

Having received the £99,990 Movember Foundation backing, Food Nation can now begin developing the Men’s Pie Club concept and finding suitable venues in Gateshead and Newcastle to officially launch and research its impact.

The funding covers the costs of setting up and running the two year programme, which includes employing staff and training volunteers to run the Men’s Pie Clubs, as well as evaluating progress and building a sustainable model to allow the idea to hopefully be successfully exported to other regions of the UK and overseas.

Craig Martin, Movember Foundation’s global director, Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, said: “We know that in their 30s, men tend to start letting go of key relationships. This is having a far reaching and very negative impact because social relationships are a key protective factor for men against anxiety, depression and potentially suicide.

“We need to tackle this issue, and fresh ideas are needed because the status quo isn’t working for men. We’re excited to launch these projects that will build the critical evidence we need in this area.”

By Emily