Mary Carney, winner of Masterchef, was in UCD’s Student Centre today judging the college’s annual ‘cook-off’. The event was created to drive awareness of how healthy eating can positively benefit mental health and was developed by UCD students with support from Think Big. Over the past few weeks students have been encouraged to submit a variety of healthy eating recipes for inclusion in a cookbook, which will be distributed to new students at the start of the academic year. The cook-off aspect to the project allows students to showcase their recipes with the best recipes making it through to appear in the book. The project received funding and support from Think big, a programme designed by O2 and Headstrong, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health, to enable young people to do projects in their community that will make a difference to young people’s mental health.
Speaking at the event, Mary Carney said: “I’m delighted to be here today and participating in the Cook-Off event with the students from UCD. Starting college can be a very difficult time and it’s important that we remind students to eat healthily and look after themselves and their mental health as they transition in to their college years.”
Newly elected head of the students union and manager of the project, Rachel Breslin added: “We submitted this project to Think Big as we wanted to really emphasise the importance of healthy eating to students, particularly in their first year of college. It is important that students are mindful of their mental health and are aware of the role of healthy eating and the impact it can have on their health and wellbeing. Every year UCD runs the competition but this year we wanted to expand on the idea to really show the benefits that healthy eating can have on how you feel and on your mental health.”
Nuala Smith, Think Big Coordinator from Headstrong said: “This project shows how young people, given the opportunity, have an important role to play in changing how we think about mental health. There is an extraordinary breadth and depth to the Think Big projects we’ve received. Rachel’s project is very inspiring as it highlights how everyday activities, like the food we eat, can influence our mental health. Learning more about what positive actions they can take to maintain their mental health will help students manage the stresses and strains of student life such as money, relationships and exams. Student welfare officers like Rachel are best place to know how to reach young people on campuses and backing youth led initiatives helps Headstrong reach young people in a way they can relate to.”
UCD Student Advisor, Ros McFeely added: “The UCD health promotion committee started this competition five years ago. The aim of the competition is to encourage students to consider eating together as another way of supporting eachother. Student advisers are always looking for ways to help students and we think the competition is a really positive initiative.”
Sinead Smith, Corporate Responsibility Manager at O2 said: “The Think Big Programme is open to any young person, aged between 14 and 25, in the Republic of Ireland with an idea for a project that promotes positive mental health. Ideas can be submitted at any time for consideration at www.o2thinkbig.ie and successful projects receive funding and support from O2 and Headstrong in the form of mentoring and on-going training to help bring the ideas to life. Since Think Big was launched in September 2010, over 130 projects have been developed by young people to make a difference to young people’s mental health.”
More information is available at www.o2thinkbig.ie.