Equip to Empower

At a Glance
Choice is an interactive tool for psychiatric inpatients to learn about healthy eating

The Brain Food Garden Project

MFA Products of Design, School of Visual Arts
Claire Hartten & Kate Bakewell
Fall 2017


The resignation, detachment and overall lack of power psychiatric inpatients feel towards their food root deeply in the unmoving model of food-outsourcing at public hospitals. In his interview, Sean Brennan, the founder of the Brain Food Garden Project and a former inpatient added, “I was a chef, but not many inpatients are experts in healthy eating or even know about the wide variety of tastes and textures out there.” They lack knowledge and power to improve their own health. However, Sean revealed, “[Bad as the food might be], when we sat down, we would buddy up and play cards while we talk and eat. And that was fun.”

Choice is thus, an interactive tool for psychiatric inpatients to learn about healthy ingredients in the right meal portion. The tool set is to be used during group activities with peers.



The first part of of the project involves learning about proportional meals through using colourful portion cups. Each cup represents a food group in the recommended size of a healthy meal. By putting the cards in the appropriate cups, inpatients learn how their favourite foods can be portioned to maximise their benefits. As a bi-product, inpatients have also created their own recipes. Choice hopes to empower inpatients to take back their desire for good food. 



The second part of the tool set is an array of prompted cards on different tastes and textures. Inpatients can talk about what they like to eat while writing it on the erasable Taste and Texture cards. Peers then guide inpatients towards the food choices that can improve their diet, thus, their health, mental and physical. 



Failure Analysis

The biggest challenge for during this project was finding a way to scale down the concept. Before Choice came about, this project focused on developing a programme called Taste Reason that connects inpatients with culinary students to co-create recipes.

The original plan was a three-stage process and programme called “Taste Reason.” First, the food would be grown at the BFGP garden. Second, inpatients would peruse the garden like a grocery shop to pick out ingredients for a recipe. Finally, the list of ingredients would be transferred to culinary students as a prompt to create the final recipe. This multipart concept was in interesting idea, but required a lot of time to be completely carried out. Thus, within the timeframe, I decided to keep the merit of the concept—empowering by equipping knowledge/reason—and foster the growing relationship between peers from the BFGP and inpatients during group activity. By zooming into that moment, Choice can make a change where it needs to. 


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