Innovation summary

In addition to social and economic vulnerabilities, people with mental illness often have difficulties in accomplishing food-related tasks such as meal planning, purchasing, budget management, and low cost meal preparation.1 These difficulties either come from a lack of knowledge (e.g. on food variety, tools, procedures, nutrition principles, available resources, etc.), from a lack of real experience and opportunity to develop skills, or from difficulties with information processing (planning, organizing, performing, etc.).2 These difficulties can have a profound impact on the capability of people with mental illness to adequately meet their nutritional needs, and subsequently on their physical and nutritional health.3

The Let’s Cook Together program aims to improve the lifestyle, habits and skills of people with severe mental illness to help them increase their food security. A tangible, customized intervention, it is facilitated by a trained cook in the participant’s residence. It consists of weekly workshops, which cover meal planning and the required purchases, meal preparation and the related hygiene principles such as food conservation. The workshops adapt to the level of knowledge and the level of autonomy of the participant.

Impact summary

  • More than 150 people have participated in the program to date
  • More than 90% of registered participants completed the program, and the majority of participants have registered for a 2nd series of workshops 

"I learned cooking tricks, which boosted confidence in my own skills and made me want to cook. I had a friend come over to eat last week-end. She liked what I made. This made me feel proud. It was very pleasing."

- Let's Cook Together participant4

Innovation details

The Program


The Let's Cook Together program seeks to:

  1. Reinforce self-confidence, increase autonomy, satisfaction and self-esteem of participants
  2. Develop basic cooking skills
  3. Support the acquisition of skills related to good nutrition and hygiene, and improve budget management, meal planning and food purchasing
  4. Break social isolation
  5. Improve long-term physical health in a sustainable way


Each Let’s Cook Together participant has access to a weekly one-on-one, 3-hour workshop for 10 weeks, determined on the his/her availability.  The service is provided in the participant’s residence by a cook-in-training, using the participant’s resources. The participant is therefore more receptive and less anxious since he or she is in a familiar learning environment.

In addition, the Let’s Cook Together program is tailored to the needs of each client according to his/her tastes, abilities and experience level, and budget.  Physical health issues of each participant such as diabetes, high cholesterol, etc. are also taken into account when preparing menus and workshops.

Workshops focus on helping clients develop strategies they can apply in their everyday lives, giving them a greater degree of personal autonomy and making the intervention more sustainable.

The Let’s Cook Together program is different from other programs such as collective cooking initiatives since it reaches people with severe mental illness living autonomously in their place of residence. It is able to reach a wider range of people as it is detached from the usual structures of mental health care.

Key drivers

Use of Participant’s Residence for Delivery of Workshop

Detachment from normal structures of mental health care, by using the participant’s residence as the place of intervention

Holistic Approach

Non-medical nature of intervention (outside of the traditional health network) makes it easier to build relationships with participants and promote faster recovery

Customized Workshop Schedule and Content

Flexibility of workshop schedule and content, which is customized for each client’s specific needs

Push for Sustainable Skills

Focus on skills participants can apply in their everyday lives, encouraging long-term continuation and repeated use

Referral Protocol Encourages Program Completion

Reference by health professionals facilitates client outreach and their involvement is a source of stability, which ensures participants follow the program to completion

Increased Outreach to Promote Program

Visibility of the program within the health network, and among community organizations through program newsletter, presentations in mental health departments and other organizations, and the presence of Le Mûrier on different consultation and community boards

New Participants Recruited due to Prior Client Satisfaction

Client satisfaction represents excellent publicity for recruiting new participants 


Lack of Funds

Insufficient financing, as Le Murier relies mostly on private foundations; because of this lack of funds, the  service potential limit has been met and there are long wait-lists to enter the program

Confusion Regarding the Different Type of Programs Available

Confusion between the Let’s Cook Together program (one-on-one workshops) and collective kitchens (group workshops) 


Participants who have completed the program and who wish to further pursue their learning will be able to integrate themselves in a food club. Through this group food setting, regular food-related activities will be offered for free on a monthly basis. The club is currently in its development phase and will be open to the general population to favor diversity and reduce stigmatization.



​​Key Implementers 

Clients are referred by a health professional (i.e. social worker, doctor, nutritionist, nurse, psychiatrist, etc.). Partners therefore come from the public sector and from community organizations, including:

  • CLSC: Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Rosemont, Saint-Léonard et Saint-Michel, Petite-Patrie, Olivier-Guimond
  • Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal
  • Services communautaires Cyprès
  • Le Parcours
  • Maison L’Échelon
  • Hôpital Notre-Dame
  • Hôpital Jean-Talon
  • Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont
  • L’Avancée
  • Centre Iris
  • Centre Dollard-Cormier
  • Hôpital Sacré-Coeur
  • Le Diapason
  • Le fil
  • Maison St-Dominique

Evaluation methods

In collaboration with the Universite de Sante Mentale (Montreal), Le Murier is undertaking an evaluation of the Let’s Cook Together program. This will be a mixed-methods case study evaluation with quantitative and qualitative assessments. It will assess changes in knowledge, attitude and practice, skill development, feelings of self-confidence and competence, dietary habits, lifestyle changes and “occupational competence” (degree to which the person can maintain a routine of productive, satisfying behaviors in everyday life).

Le Murier also took part in a study of food insecurity among people with serious mental illness, which developed the Let’s Cook Together program.

Cost of implementation

Program implementation costs include the cook-in-trainings’ salaries and travel expenses to each participants home. There are currently two cooks-in-training providing the workshops. Each trainer goes to 7 peoples’ residence on a weekly basis, and therefore provides 21 workshop hours a week. 

Impact details

Since the program's beginning, more than 150 people have participated and benefited from the cooking workshops by improving their knowledge in nutrition and basic cooking skills.

The Let’s Cook Together program is currently part of a research program measuring the benefits of the program by monitoring past participants. Preliminary results will be disclosed in Spring 2015.

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