News & Latest 02.02.2022

Food for thought with Cambridge Children’s Hospital

ARC EoE co-hosted an inaugural online event to help shape the vision for our region's first dedicated children's hospital

On 21 January 2022, the 'Food, with Care' online conference brought together researchers, health professionals, designers, young people, parents and carers. They participated in a virtual day of discussion and debate about how food can support children and young people's physical and mental health in hospital and within their communities, in the east of England.

With a multidisciplinary programme of talks considering approaches to food as nutrition and therapy, delegates explored how good food provision can be interwoven into the design, build and delivery of the new hospital. The star feature was a film with children, young people and parents from the Cambridge Children’s Network sharing their experiences – highlighting the social and emotional impact of being able to eat well.

  • Watch the Cambridge Children’s Network film sharing patient and carer views 

Event co-chair and ARC EoE Theme Lead Professor Wendy Wills said: “Developing a vision and a strategy for Cambridge Children’s Hospital that puts food at its heart is a ground-breaking concept. Food is part of our identity, it helps bond us to others, whether within our family or within a hospital setting. We have established a partnership between the ARC EoE and the Cambridge Children’s team to plan further events exploring different perspectives and experiences to refine and realise the ‘Food, with Care’ vision.

    “We will also plan an ambitious programme of research and evaluation to ensure we capture how the ‘Food, with Care’ strategy makes a difference, not only to the lives of children and their families, but to the broader communities involved with the new hospital.”

    Professor Wendy Wills

    "The research we conducted about food and eating during the pandemic, consulting families with infants and school-aged children clearly highlighted that parents want access to services and professional advice to help them feed their children a nutritious and appropriate diet. It also showed, however, that when life is chaotic and family members live with illness or a chronic condition, eating well becomes deprioritised. If the Cambridge Children’s team can make eating well the ‘easy’ choice at the hospital, it will go a long way to support families in the region."

    • Watch Professor Wendy Wills’ keynote presentation from the event

    Co-chair and Cambridge Children’s Clinical Mental Health Lead Dr Cathy Walsh said: “Innovation and integration are driving the development of this new hospital and a whole new way of caring for children in our region. Food is an essential part of care pathways and we have an opportunity to combine best practice with the latest research on nutrition and therapy to support children and families. Thank you to everyone who attended for all your insights and contributions at our first event, particularly the parents, young people and children who shared their views in advance - we look forward to working with you to discuss and develop ideas further.”

    Talks focussed on the importance of understanding the different conditions and social norms families face, building relationships between them and hospital staff, as well as addressing harmful language around food and body image.

    In her presentation, ARC EoE Theme Co-Lead Dr Elspeth Mathie explained the ‘Principles of co-production and how to achieve this in the delivery of the 'Food, with Care' vision’ sharing the latest NIHR guidance and encouraging the project team to ‘Let the children lead the way and try to see through their eyes’.

    • Watch Dr Elspeth Mathie’s co-production and involvement masterclass

    ARC EoE Director Professor Peter Jones considered the role of ARC EoE in developing and implementing the 'Food, with Care' strategy for the East of England, and how to take some of the ideas from the event forward as research projects, which could impact health and social care improvements for the whole region.

    • Watch Professor Peter Jones’ presentation 

    Find all of the event resources and illustrations summarising discussions and key points on the Cambridge Children’s Hospital website. If you are interested in attending or contributing to future events, please contact: