Changing Lives, Changing Services
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Gateway Family Services

Changing Lives, Changing Services.
We work to improve health, develop skills and opportunities and fight inequalities. We change the way public services work.

Creating cooking mentors to help new mums

cooking mentorsWe reckon our POWs could help new mums even more if they were able to show them how to cook a few quick and easy things. So we’re training our staff to do just this.

Gateway regularly works with families who are managing on very low income. Our Pregnancy Outreach Workers report that, for some clients, money is so restricted that they have to make a choice between paying the bills and the weekly food shop.

Some women are choosing to feed their families before themselves, which is not advisable for anyone – but particularly not if they are pregnant.

We realised some time ago that we needed a way of providing immediate help to those who need it, and the combination of our food bank and hardship payments already do that. However, this is emergency help and it isn’t a long term answer. It bridges a gap, but it’s only viable for a few days. There’s a real need for something more sustainable.

Sharing cooking skills

We’ve found that part of the issue is that people don’t know how to buy and prepare meals that are both cheap and nutritious. Often, a shopping budget can stretch much further if you buy raw ingredients, rather than prepared items, but this requires you to know what to do with them.

So we’re training a number of staff in the skills they would need to be able to run cooking sessions. They’ll then be in a position to show their clients how to buy the right sorts of ingredients and how to prepare meals that fit more easily into a limited budget.

The “Cooking Mentors” training is being delivered by the Food and Dietetic Department of the Birmingham Community Healthcare Trust. It includes nutrition advice and an element of practical food preparation. As part of this training the Mentors will be completing a Basic Food Hygiene Certificate and given all the other tools they need to teach others.

Once they’ve completed all this, the Cooking Mentors will be ready to start sharing their knowledge and giving new mums some new skills, either in one-to-one, in a client’s home, or by providing a “healthy eating” workshop in a group session.

Here Caroline and Lindsey, two of our POWs, talk about how they’ll be using their new skills:

We recognise that not everyone who takes part in the sessions will have the relevant cooking equipment in their home, or the money to buy initial ingredients, so we hope to be able to offer a starter pack for those who need it, too.

This is not a project we are being funded to provide. We’ve seen that there’s a gap and – as is so often the case – we want to fill it.

Can you help?

A big thank you to Foghorn Improv, who donated the proceeds from one of their recent comedy nights, which has really helped with setting up costs for this project. We’re hoping to be able to provide most of the food basics and cooking equipment via the funds and contacts we already have, but we’d be very glad of further donations.

So if you have (unused) cooking equipment and think our Mentors could make use of it, please pass it along. Alternatively, if you want to help but don’t have any kitchen utensils to donate, you could provide supermarket vouchers for us to buy food or cooking equipment.

Of course, we hope the Cooking Mentors will be part of a longer term solution for food poverty, but food is still essential and many people are still in need of emergency donations, especially over the winter.

As well as running our own bank for food and essentials, we work closely with Narthex, who often provide food parcels to our clients. If you’re in the Sparkhill/Sparkbrook area and you want to give food to those in need, please take donations to Narthex. We know they would be glad of them.

In fact there are many foodbanks operating in and around Birmingham.  If you’re interested in finding out more The Trussell Trust have compiled a foodbank map showing what’s available.

Maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy – with Maternal Lighten Up

Maternal Lighten UpOne in five pregnant women in Birmingham is overweight and so run a higher risk of complications during pregnancy. So the Maternal Lighten Up service is here to help women maintain a healthy weight in the months leading up to birth.

Unlike the general Lighten Up service, Maternal Lighten Up isn’t about weight loss – as Liz Barber, the Maternal Lighten Up Administrator, explains: “It’s probably a bit weird to be told ‘you’re overweight, but you can’t lose it’ – but, during your pregnancy, it’s all about helping you limit your weight gain. The services we refer our clients to can help them to do that in a healthy way.”

The city-wide service gets the majority of its referrals – women who are up to 28 weeks pregnant with a BMI of over 30 – from midwives. Clients are given the choice of three services to take up:

  • Maternal Health Trainers give one to one advice and a tailored programme of healthy eating and exercise to help maintain healthy weight gain during pregnancy
  • Birthfit is a programme of gentle exercise tailored to each stage of pregnancy and to individual needs, including specific advice about preparing for the birth
  • Slimming World offers classes for general weight loss, but pregnant women can join the classes to learn general healthy eating and exercise tips

Liz says, “going by the latest figures, nearly half the clients choose to go with the Maternal Health Trainer service. But whichever path they take, we will offer regular calls to see how they’re getting on and to offer extra support should they need it. Sometimes, if there are other issues besides their weight, this can mean putting them in touch with other services, such as our Pregnancy Outreach Workers”.

And after the other services finish, the support from Gateway continues. “Even after the birth, we encourage mums to carry on their healthy regime, and lose weight, by joining our general Lighten Up service”.

Kerry’s story

Kerry started with the Maternal Lighten Up programme in December 2012, at 13 weeks pregnant, after being referred by her Midwife for support with her weight management.  Pregnancy was nothing new, as this was her third baby, but in previous pregnancies she had put on a lot of weight and this time round she wanted to be better prepared.

After a discussion with Liz about the options available, Kerry opted for Birthfit, a weekly antenatal exercise class run by a former midwife, that would help keep her active during her pregnancy.

When Kerry began the course with Birthfit in January she was nearly 17st and, after attending every week, her weight gain remained stable. At 35 weeks she had gained just under a stone.

In April, Kerry said “I wish this service had been around in my previous pregnancies, where I put on two or three stone”. She says that the support from Maternal Lighten Up was “brilliant”, and that the tailored exercises she practiced through Birthfit helped her back problems more than physiotherapy sessions had done.

Kerry, who had her baby in June, also said that, being a third time mum, she really didn’t expect to learn anything new, but “I was amazed to be learning new things every week. I thought the programme was brilliant and would recommend the service to any mums to be”.

Rachel’s story

After Rachel was referred to Maternal Lighten Up, she chose to work with a Maternal Health Trainer, Richard McKenzie, who helped her to come up with her own healthy eating and exercise plan. She saw the benefits straight away, and made this statement just two weeks after her initial appointment: “I’m finding it motivating keeping the behaviour diary and monitoring my food and activity. I feel that my diet and exercise level has been good over the last two weeks and in balance.”

Richard has helped Rachel to stick to her healthy eating plan and regular sessions of yoga, and now she’s on track to give birth without having put on too much extra weight. In this video, taken just last week, she tells us, “I’m feeling really positive!”

“My life is fantastic!” – Bernard’s story

Bernard-thumbs-upBernard was referred into Gateway’s Health Trainer service by his GP at the start of this year, as he had raised cholesterol and was overweight.

Six months later, he recorded a statement on our Impact Assessment App saying, “I’ve lowered my cholesterol from 6.4 – now 4.2 – and lost 2 stone 7 pounds. I feel amazing!” So how did he do it?

During an initial hour-long appointment with Health Trainer Wayne, Bernard discussed his current lifestyle and talked about what he wanted to change. His first statement said, “my weight has been going up and up for four years and I feel now is the time to tackle it.”

First, Wayne asked Bernard to record everything he ate and drank every day for the next four weeks. This would help them to see where things needed to change, so they could set some targets for the next few months.

Then, based on Bernard’s food diary and the end results he wanted to achieve – a lower weight and lower cholesterol levels – Wayne and Bernard set some goals that they thought would be realistic:

  • to reduce his portion sizes
  • to eat two pieces of fruit every day
  • to eat three different vegetables, four days a week
  • to cut out high fat dairy cheese, and
  • to drink more fluids

Bernard said, “I know I don’t drink enough. My intake is low at three drinks each day, so I need to up this to six – and also drink four small glasses of water every day.”

Four months later – in May – Bernard’s recorded statements are a testament to his hard work. “I have lost two stone in weight and my cholesterol, which had been at 6.4, is now 4.2 – the best it has ever been.” (The government recommends that total cholesterol levels for healthy adults should be 5 or less, so this figure is spot on.) He continued, “thanks to the Health Trainer, my life is fantastic.”

But Bernard hadn’t stopped setting goals and working towards new targets. As well as changing his eating and drinking habits to become healthier, Bernard decided to increase the amount of exercise he was doing. He said, “My goal now is to go swimming for an hour three days a week, and to walk for 30 minutes five days a week. I want to lose seven pounds, which will bring me down to a healthy weight.”

Two months on, we met Bernard at the Gateway Fun Run. He’s now an exercise fiend! See what he had to say in this video, taken just after the Fun Run in Cannon Hill Park last month.

Losing weight with help from a Health Trainer

When our Health Trainers help people to lose weight, they don’t recommend dieting. Instead, they help people to make lifestyle changes that will go far beyond the few months they’re with the service.

Derek’s story

Wayne with DerekDerek was referred to a Health Trainer by his GP seven months ago to get some help to lose weight.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” he says, “but Wayne was really good. Within an hour I had found out the best way forward with my eating habits.”

The main change for Derek was to start eating regular meals and getting into a routine that included breakfast, lunch and an evening meal. He cut out snacks and fizzy drinks and started including more fruit and vegetables in his meals.

“I lost 6 stone,” says Derek. “I’m a driving instructor and my seat was that far back, no-one could sit behind me. Now they can. I’m a big man, so this makes a huge difference to me.”

And it’s clear he’s happy with his new lifestyle.

“People stop me and say ‘are you on a diet?’ but I say ‘no, I’m healthy eating’. It’s nice for me – it gives me confidence and I feel really good at losing the weight.”

Gemma’s story

Gemma - beforeFor Gemma, it was a question of motivation. She joined Slimming World at the end of November last year but, thanks to her Health Trainer, she’s kept at it.

In her final statement she said, “I can’t believe it! I joined Slimming World and lost 25 pounds in weight.”

Again, the benefits of the changes she’s made are obvious.

“I feel good – I was a size 20 and now I’m a 16,” she says. “My joints don’t ache half as much, I’ve got more energy and I’ve reduced my risk of long term health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

“I have to say a big thank you to my health trainer, who has been amazing throughout. When I had a tough time, he was the one motivating me.”

John Crawford on Middle Age Spread, Health Trainers in South Birmingham and his diabetes

John admits he had a problem with middle aged spread – what you could call his “Guiness gut.”

He was putting on weight around his middle and was worried that his type 2 diabetes would get worse. John didn’t fancy injecting himself everyday. He put his weight gain down to “basic laziness” comfort eating in the cold weather and the fact he liked a Guiness.  He knew he had to do something about it.

We set him a target for his weight lose and he started coming to us every month for encouragement, in 6 months he went from 14 stone 2 pounds to just under 13!

Last week I asked him what had made a difference – you can hear why he thought he was successful  in the video clip above but essentially he said “it was enjoyable to come and speak to someone who would give you some encouragement.”

He took up walking twice a day and altered his diet to cut out bread (bar the odd slice) and cut back on the Guiness too. When cooking everything is grilled instead of fried and if he drives to the shops he parks a little bit further away so he can walk in -  John said he “educated his mind and taste buds” to change his habits.

As a Health Trainer working in Birmingham I have helped a lot of people like John and my top tips for combating middle aged spread are;

  • Regular exercise but doing something you enjoy rather than something you think is good for you
  • Reduce calories, people take on way more calories than they need to in a day, reduce these and remember there are claories in alcohol too.

Last week John completed 5k in aid of Cure Leukemia – he admits he walked instead of run and that he couldn’t have done it twice -  but we are very proud of him.

Healthy eating in Birmingham – some myths or facts about food, exercise and weight loss?

Usman Ahmed Health Trainer in South Birmingham

Usman Ahmed Health Trainer in South Birmingham

I’m Usman Ahmed – one of the Gateway Family services health trainers and I’m constantly finding myself helping people pick their way through the  myths or facts of diet and excercise.

Ever heard of the sayings:

  • “Eating late at night makes you put on weight”
  • “Carbohydrates are fattening”
  • “Low-fat foods always help you lose weight”
  • ” You can eat whatever you want, as long as you exercise”

So Fact? Or Myth? Well lets see….. lets take one at a time: Read more