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Changing attitudes towards food and eating better

Convenience meals are eroding our food culture. A growing tendency to eat alone and an increase in food miles are making more people settle for low-grade, nutritionally poor alternatives. Lincolnshire County Council decided to tackle these problems in their local schools and communities, to help change behaviours and culture relating to food.

The Food for Life programme provides opportunities for residents throughout Lincolnshire to improve their health and lifestyle by developing skills, knowledge and confidence in cooking healthy meals and growing their own food.

What we did

The Council commissioned our team of researchers to evaluate the project and establish its impact. We measured key outcomes in four main areas of the programme

  • knowledge and skill development
  • increased confidence and engagement
  • motivation and behaviour change including changed attitudes and improved diets
  • impacts on health and wellbeing including wider social impacts, increased social capital, intergenerational impacts and weight loss

We designed a range of evaluation techniques to meet the diverse needs of the programme participants. This included ‘before and after’ surveys, photo caption sheets, food and physical activity diaries, Qwizdom games for young people, feedback postcards and observation sheets.

We were able to identify the right tools, techniques and environments to ensure high quality data had been collected with minimum burden on participants and programme coordinators.

The result

Our research showed that targets had been exceeded across all areas. This ranged from reaching beyond the number of growing sites by 4%, to surpassing the number of cooking opportunities by 240%. This exceptional achievement demonstrates the scale of delivery and impact that the Food for Life project has had across Lincolnshire.

The study provided a strong evidence base for best practice, and helped to identify which elements of the programme delivered the greatest impact. The success of the programme fed into a series of case studies to inspire others, and encouraged its replication within each Lincolnshire district. The evidence presented has also supported the development of a business case for continued investment and to inform further policy development.

Since the evaluation of the Food for Life project, we were commissioned to provide independent expert help with an extensive public consultation on the future of Lincolnshire’s library service. This included managing public consultation events, analysing survey data and other forms of feedback from the public, and writing the public consultation report.

They say

The team at Sheffield Hallam have been fantastic and the work they have done for us has been completely invaluable. We started pretty much with nothing in terms of evidence and now have some real clout behind what we do

Sarah Glendinning, Programme Officer, Public Health Directorate, Lincolnshire County Council

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