Londoners’ Stories of Health, Food and Wellbeing During COVID-19

Hear how Londoners boosted their health and wellbeing during the pandemic, with help from 4 organisations

By Mayor of London

Co-curated by Katrina Man (Independent Curator) and the London Community Story grantees

Move Dance Feel Session by Camilla Greenwell Photography (2021) by Move Dance FeelMayor of London

Introduction

In 2020, soon after London went into its first lockdown, communities, arts and cultural, and heritage organisations began projects to start to gather people’s experiences of the pandemic. 

Collections of films, poems, photographs, diaries, and much more were created, focusing on lived experience and generating a wealth of collections that could be tapped into by those responding to the crisis. 

Whilst collecting projects were occurring policy and decision makers were researching the impact of COVID on London’s diverse communities. The Mayor's London Community Story programme aimed to connect policy makers to the communities generating these creative responses to COVID.

Move Dance Feel Dance Session by Camilla Greenwell Photography (2021) by Move Dance FeelMayor of London

London's Recovery: Health and Wellbeing

Food insecurity and poor mental and physical health have risen during the pandemic. Job and income losses, lack of physical activity, the closure of services, disruption to treatment, illness and bereavement, and poor quality housing are all contributing factors. 

Recovery must ensure that all Londoners have access to affordable healthy food and support to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. Recovery must also include providing services to support Londoners’ mental health which has been highly impacted by COVID. 

Fruit by Jakub Kapusnak (2021) by Jakub Kapusnak PhotographyMayor of London

The Mayor of London is on a mission to ensure all London families will find it easier to eat healthy food and be active where they live, learn, shop, work and play by 2025.

Growing Hope Occupational Therapy Session During COVID (2021) by Growing HopeMayor of London

The Mayor is also on a mission to ensure London will have a quarter of a million wellbeing champions, supporting Londoners where they live, work and play, by 2025.

Move Dance Feel by Camilla Greenwell Photography (2021) by Move Dance FeelMayor of London

1) Move Dance Feel

Move Dance Feel have been improving the physical and mental health of their community through online dance sessions during the pandemic.

Move Dance Feel Session by Camilla Greenwell Photography (2021) by Move Dance FeelMayor of London

Move Dance Feel

Move Dance Feel is a community project supporting women affected by cancer through dance. They offer a creative, supportive and restorative experience for people from all walks of life affected by cancer, to physically and mentally discover a renewed sense of joy in the body.

The Impact of Move Dance Feel Online on Participants’ Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health (2021) by Move Dance FeelMayor of London

The Impact on Participants’ Mental Health and Wellbeing

This video shares testimonies from 2020-2021 programme participants who express how dance improves their mental health and emotional wellbeing - replacing pain with joy.

Transformation of Body Image Among Move Dance Feel Online Participants: "To see the beauty" (2021) by Move Dance FeelMayor of London

Transformation of Body Image from Move Dance Feel Online

In this video, testimonies from Move Dance Feel 2020-2021 participants demonstrate how dance has enhanced their  connection to, and appreciation for, their bodies.

MDF Online 2020-2021 Infographic (2021) by Move Dance FeelMayor of London

Infographic of Move Dance Feel Online Impact and Evaluation

An infographic of testimonials and statistics evaluating the impact of Move Dance Feel’s work. For example, 90% of participants feel that dancing supports their health. 96% reported that dancing improves their mood.  

MDF Online 2020-2021 Infographic Page 4 (2021) by Move Dance FeelMayor of London

Carib Eats - Preparing Food Packages (2021) by Carib EatsMayor of London

2) Carib Eats

A lack of reliable access to affordable and nutritious food, known as food insecurity, was already an issue in London even before COVID. 1.5 million adults and 400,000 children were already experiencing low or very low food security ('A Robust Safety Net', Mayor of London). 

Carib Eats - Documentary Work (2021) by Carib EatsMayor of London

The economic impact of the pandemic has increased food insecurity in the UK by 25%, with 1,700,000 children living in households without access to sufficient food. 


Carib Eats has documented the impact of food insecurity, poverty and inequalities within communities in Hackney.

Carib Eats - Logo (2021) by Carib EatsMayor of London

Carib Eats

Carib Eats was set up in March 2020 in response to the food insecurity experienced in Hackney during the pandemic. The organisation provided weekly meals to residents experiencing a lack of food access, until funding and volunteer availability losses prevailed in May 2021. 

Changing Food Prices by Carib Eats (Captioned) (2021) by Carib EatsMayor of London

Carib Eats: 'Changing Food Prices'

Community members were interviewed to document their experiences of the rising food prices during the pandemic, especially for cultural foods. Many acknowledge that COVID supply issues may be the cause but many speculate whether shopkeepers are taking advantage of the situation.

Carib Eats - Logo (2021) by Carib EatsMayor of London

Carib Eats: 'Hackney's Post-Pandemic Recovery Strategy'

Carib Eats produced a report called 'Hackney's Post-Pandemic Recovery Strategy' about the issues facing communities in Hackney. This included food insecurity and mental health and focused on communities such as the older community, carers and those who are visually impaired.

Report produced by Carib Eats and Hackney Cooperative Development Trust. 

Report written and designed by Frances Ernstzen.  

Interviews by Frances Ernstzen and Hannah Coogan.

View the full report here.

Carib Eats - Healthy Food Page (2021) by Carib EatsMayor of London

Access to Healthy Food

It is not just an issue of access to food as a whole but an issue of access to healthy food. Healthy food is a must for physical and mental wellbeing.

Carib Eats - The Solution is Simple Page (2021) by Carib EatsMayor of London

The Solution

The council must monitor and regulate food sales within the borough.

Thoughts on Hackney Council by Carib Eats (2021) by Carib EatsMayor of London

Carib Eats: 'Thoughts on Hackney Council'

Carib Eats interviewed members of the community to hear about their experiences of the challenges of getting the support they need from Hackney council, the need for educational resources for older members of the community and the need for more support for overworked carers. 

COVID-19 Awareness (2021) by Kayd Somali ArtsMayor of London

3) Kayd Somali Arts and Culture

Kayd Somali Arts and Culture explore the harmful issue of misinformation amongst the Somali community. Here, a lack of access to clear, translated guidance means that the first information received about COVID and the vaccine is not always from an official or trusted source.

COVID-19 Awareness (2021) by Kayd Somali ArtsMayor of London

It is essential that health information is translated, quickly and accurately, so that it is accessible for all.

COVID-19 Awareness (2021) by Kayd Somali ArtsMayor of London

Kayd Somali Arts and Culture

Kayd Somali Arts and Culture was founded in 2009 by Ayan Mahamoud MBE in Tower Hamlets. Kayd provides a platform and space for Somali immigrants, refugees and their families based in London. The following poems address issues of misinformation and vaccine fears in the community.

The Flag Bearers by Ahmed Diria (Captioned) (2021) by Kayd Somali ArtsMayor of London

'The Flag Bearers' by Ahmed Diria

A poem rallying against misinformation regarding COVID-19 vaccinations.

The Flag Bearers by Ahmed Diria (2021) by Kayd Somali ArtsMayor of London

'The Flag Bearers' by Ahmed Diria - Poem Text

Two Birds by Naima Elmi (Captioned) (2021) by Kayd Somali ArtsMayor of London

'Two Birds' by Naima Elmi

A poem addressing the issue of spreading incorrect information.

Two Birds by Naima Elmi (2021) by Kayd Somali ArtsMayor of London

'Two Birds' by Naima Elmi - Poem Text

The Lie That Sears by Ibrahim Hirsi (Captioned) (2021) by Kayd Somali ArtsMayor of London

'The Lie That Sears' by Ibrahim Hirsi

The poem starts by exploring historical plagues/pandemics, such as the Spanish Flu, and the idea that valuable lessons from history are to be learnt. It then interrogates misinformation about the vaccine and advocates for its use, describing it an important form of protection.

The Lie That Sears by Ibrahim Hirsi (2021) by Kayd Somali ArtsMayor of London

'The Lie That Sears' by Ibrahim Hirsi - Poem Text

Growing Hope Photo by Rachel Orphan (2021) by Growing HopeMayor of London

4) Growing Hope

Difficulties faced by families with children or young people with additional needs were intensified by home schooling and support services stopping during COVID. Growing Hope moved their therapy work online to provide support to struggling families improving their mental health.

Growing Hope Photo by Rachel Orphan (2021) by Growing HopeMayor of London

Growing Hope

Growing Hope is a charitable organisation that provides free therapy for children and young people with additional needs and their families in partnership with local churches across the UK. They want families to know their value and experience hope where things can be difficult.

Growing Hope Photo by Rodycloud Photography (2021) by Growing HopeMayor of London

Additional needs could include a physical disability, a cognitive disability, a mental health problem or an undiagnosed need that impacts everyday activities. Growing Hope provides free therapy services, such as occupational therapy and counselling, to support the whole family.

Growing Hope Infographic (2021) by Growing HopeMayor of London

Growing Hope Infographic

This infographic provides information and statistics on Growing Hope’s work. It includes the fact that 111 children received therapy and over 250 parents and carers where supported between March 2020 to March 2021. 

Growing Hope: Testimonials

In these testimonials, Growing Hope’s families and carers reflect on how important their support has been.

The families and carers discuss the useful tools they have learnt to support their children and emphasise the hope and light that sessions with Growing Hope have brought into their lives.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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