The pies have it - how a Bake Off with a difference is boosting men’s mental health

10 October 2018 | North East England

Mens Pie Club

Men’s Pie Club is bringing men together, helping defeat isolation and depression.

It is classic comfort food for most men - a delicious pie, with a deep meaty filling, and delicious buttery, flaky pastry.

But at Newcastle’s Men’s Pie Club, the hearty British dish does much more than fill bellies. It brings men together, helping to combat loneliness, mental illness and male suicide.

Men’s Pie Club was created by staff at community group Food Nation, which helps promote healthy eating. They came up with the idea of engaging with local men by inviting them to come and bake, and eat, a delicious pie. That idea has blossomed into the Men’s Pie Club, which sees groups of up to 10 men meet up and make a pie each from scratch, before eating them together.

Colin Mallen, the project coordinator, said: “Most importantly, they chat and interact, and build friendships and relationships. Already the clubs are having a really positive impact. 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.

“Just to get these guys to come is a big thing, many hardly ever leave their homes.”

The first pie club, held at a community centre in Byker, was launched in March after winning funding from the Movember Foundation, helping to purchase equipment such as individual pie makers. It was so successful that two other clubs have been started elsewhere in the city, with another three in the pipeline and plans to roll out the scheme nationwide.

The sessions also teach the men about healthy eating. Colin added: “Every week the guys choose the flavour of next week’s pie. A favourite is beef and onion, but we’ve also done others like a sweet potato and chickpea pie, which was delicious. But the actual pie is secondary to their mental health, and it’s been amazing to see the difference the pie clubs are making.

“One shy chap didn’t say a single word at first, but over the weeks his confidence grew. One night he led a teaching demonstration himself – something he’d never imagined doing before. The men take that confidence away to the other areas of their lives, and we help them move their lives forward.”

The positive impact of Men’s Pie Club shows that when people help people, it’s a good thing for all of us. Colin added: “We’ve linked some men with courses so they can get back into work, we helped one who wanted to join a local gym, and some have become volunteers with Food Nation’s other projects. It’s amazing to think that it all started with a good old pie.”

**If you have concerns about your mental health, or the mental health of someone close to you, visit mind.org.uk

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