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Stepping Out – eating and growing food together

Stepping Out offers people with mental health problems an opportunity to get involved in various food-based activities in East Lothian that promote both physical health and social wellbeing.

A healthy meal in Stepping Out's garden


Stepping Out is a voluntary organisation based in the North Berwick Community Centre. People who use its services mostly have severe and enduring mental health problems.

Stepping Out works with people living with mental ill health giving them the opportunity to get involved in various food-based activities that promote physical health and social well-being.

How it works

Activities include a weekly lunch club and fortnightly supper clubs in North Berwick Community Centre and at Lewisvale Park in Musselburgh, which is also home to the Healing Garden Project with its kitchen garden growing herbs, vegetables, edible flowers and salad.

The Healing Garden Project offers two weekly staffed sessions. In addition people can come along any time they like to work under their own steam; this encourages independence and offers quieter opportunities to be in the garden.

In all the projects participants are involved in decision-making around the activities they take part in, helping people to feel included and valued. Participants were involved in the design of the Healing Garden Project, and in the supper clubs everyone is involved with the creation of the suppers and clearing up.

Building skills and knowledge around growing food is central to all the projects.


Lunch and supper club participants are encouraged to take pride in creating a colourful enticing dish. They say that they feel more confident about their ability to follow recipes and substitute ingredients, and have a greater knowledge and interest in food. They also feel that their diet has improved, leading to weight loss.

The projects also help tackle isolation. Supper club participants have commented that the club is the only time they go out in the evening. The Healing Garden promotes social inclusion and sense of community by involving other groups in its work. For example, the Bridges Project and Community Service Offenders helped with some of the heavier work needed in the garden, bringing together a cross-section of people from the community both young and old, and from different backgrounds.

Stepping Out shows how food can be a catalyst for improved mental health.

Future plans

In 2014 Stepping Out started to produce short ‘how-to’ recipes; these are posted on YouTube for people to refer to if they want to make the dishes at home. Plans for 2015 include producing a recipe book using art and photography by members.


Published: February 9, 2015