Amy has been a Bags of Taste cooking mentor for the last 18 months.

Find out more about her experiences and how rewarding she finds it.

When I first applied to be a cooking mentor with Bags of Taste in 2021, I was looking for a virtual volunteering opportunity I could do around my full time job, and Bags of Taste mentoring seemed perfect! I love food – cooking it and eating it – and the mentoring was flexible around my job. I can easily send messages on my lunch break at work, or after work, as lots of the students cook at teatime.

Students receive a bag of food, recipes and some basic equipment, so my job for the first few days of the whats app group is building excitement around the bags arriving and what they’ll be cooking. They tend to have more questions in the first few days, so I can quickly send responses when I’m at work or other members of the group might respond. I post the recipes and top tips then the students are encouraged to post photos of their dishes with the group.

The opportunity to (virtually) meet new people and hear how the course has made a positive difference to their lives is one of my favourite things about Bags of Taste mentoring. Each time I’ve called a student to congratulate them on completing the course, they’ve shared lovely stories of how the Bags of Taste programme has changed the way they’ll cook in future, the amount of money they’ll save on food shopping each week or how they and their family have enjoyed cooking the recipes.

I also love the creativity students show when making the recipes. They sometimes add additional ingredients according to their tastes. One student created a video with background music for one of the recipes which was amazing!

I’ve mentored people from all walks of life – parents, people living on their own, people with mental health difficulties, people with disabilities and lots more. Everyone engages in the course slightly differently and it’s my job as a mentor to identify how to encourage each of them to succeed.

One of my favourite memories was a student who cooked in the early hours of the morning, sending photos of each stage of the recipe whilst having a cooking party in their kitchen, dancing to music. In all the photos they had a huge smile on their face – I loved the fact they made it so fun!

I’ve also had groups who have shared other recipe ideas in the group – it’s always nice to see everyone talking in the group and sharing their tips and ideas. I know I’m a very small cog in a much larger machine but seeing the difference Bags of Taste makes to people has been extremely satisfying, and something that encourages me to continue mentoring with Bags of Taste.

To find out more about how you can become a Bags of Taste cooking mentor, go to

10th October is World Mental Health Day and it’s a good opportunity to talk about the importance of mental health. Read our latest blog from Alicia Weston, Bags of Taste CEO.

This year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is ‘Make mental health and well-being for all a global priority’. Read more at

Statistics show one in four adults in the UK have at least one diagnosable mental health problem in a given year. This is 3x higher if people are on benefits than if they’re not, and 5x higher if they’re on a disability allowance.

Since 2010, evidence has emerged that quality of diet is linked to clinical depressive and anxiety disorders (Felice Jacka), and also that poor quality diets increased the risk of developing these conditions over time. In the following 10 years a large, consistent and comprehensive evidence base has accumulated supporting these observations.

If people have a healthier diet quality, their risk of developing depression seems to be reduced by about 30%. This was confirmed by the SMILES trial which showed that a third of participants with severe depression went into complete remission as a result of changing their diet, and that this was ‘dose-dependent’, i.e. the amount they improved their diet was closely related to their mental health improvement. This was within 3 months!

Evidence is now emerging also about the gut microbiome and the gut-brain axis. We already know that gut disorders like IBS are closely related to depression and anxiety and we also know that ultra-processed foods are linked with these disorders.

Bags of Taste’s dietary change course is proven to improve the diets of people on low incomes, which is very closely linked to poor mental health.

One of our key outcomes is that we significantly improve diets and reduce consumption of ultra-processed foods. This has been independently assessed by nutritionists in a long term follow up study. In addition, our courses are designed for those most at risk of mental health conditions – those on very low incomes facing numerous other challenges (e.g. debt) in their lives – itself a risk factor for poor mental health.

If you are an organisation supporting people with mental health problems working in one of our areas (see our locations under Join a Course),  get in touch and let’s see how  we can work together.

You can read more about this in Felice Jacka’s paper on the SMILES trial research.

Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing?

How diet can affect your mental well-being

Alicia, founder of Bags of Taste does a cooking demonstration

Social networks are starting to play an important role during these unprecedented times, with lockdown and social distancing having a real impact on everyone’s social and private lives.

Banning junk food advertising is a step in the right direction, but when the whole environment is geared towards encouraging bad eating choices, there is a lot more that needs to be done.

Class Meal

Replicability is the key to scaling. Yet so many interventions are small scale and highly personalised; it takes enormously tailored, intensive interactions to effect change in people who need a high degree of support. We should know.

can opener or tin opener

Talking with our participants has been one of the most important things behind the success of Bags of Taste.  We’ve always been really interested in why they are not cooking – we’ve frankly surveyed the hell out of them (our pile of forms is almost 3ft high!!)