Project: Cornerstone Benwell

A community charity in the heart of Newcastle’s West End

Operating since 1987, Cornerstone Benwell works across all aspects of the community with a particular focus on adults with learning disabilities, and adults and children struggling with their mental health. With support from the Foundation and others, Cornerstone will extend its ‘Kindful Kitchen’ project, delivering mindful cooking and eating.

Situated in an area of severe economic deprivation and child poverty, Cornerstone Benwell started as a project set up by local churches and it now operates as an independent charity from its purpose-built centre. Cornerstone has a long-term commitment to serve the community by working to include the excluded and empower the disempowered. It runs events, groups and activities focusing on three main areas:

  1. Providing healthy and hearty food.

  2. Education and enrichment.

  3. Improving mental health.

It does this across a number of projects, which include: 

Corner Shop – Cornerstone’s pre-loved clothing shop where all items are sold for low prices.

Corner Kitchen - A community café providing healthy and hearty food at a very low cost to support those living in poverty.

Benwell Bridge & Bubble – A community pantry which provides an alternative to the standard food parcel with more choice and healthier options, alongside a free washing machine/dryer service.

The Welcome Project - Fun, educational, and valuable activities for adults with learning disabilities in Newcastle and the local area.

The Kindful Project (Children / Adults) - Activities promoting mindfulness skills to promote good mental health. In 2021-2022 this was delivered through arts, craft, song and movement. In 2022-2023 this was delivered through cookery sessions.

Golden Years Social & Cornerstone Memory Café – An over 50s lunch club providing good filling food, companionship, and entertainment.

The Kindful Project started in September 2021 as a response to the mental health crisis disproportionately affecting children who are living in poverty. Cornerstone worked alongside schools in the area to deliver planned activities focusing on mindfulness, yoga, kindness to self and others, and good mental health practice. This evolved to include Kindful Kitchen, which incorporates mindful cooking and eating with targeted exercises to support the mental health of the children.

Due to several inquiries from other community groups, the NHS, and Newcastle City Council, Cornerstone will expand and improve the service to reach a range of other groups, including:

  • Those identified with long term mental health concerns who live in poverty;

  • The elderly and carers of elderly and/or people living with memory problems;

  • Children struggling with mental health;

  • Menopausal women struggling with mental health concerns (identified as gap in services);

  • Adults who received food parcels.

The sessions will be delivered weekly for each group and will run over the course of the year. The benefits of cookery are numerous - not only does cooking promote wellbeing by keeping the participant active, but it also offers a sense of achievement. Learning about where our ingredients come from is a mindful activity, as is mindful eating. Spending time in the outdoors planting herbs and vegetables is known to be great for mental health and encourages us to think more mindfully about where our food comes from.

Given the current cost of living, so many people are reliant on food banks. Learning to cook on a budget will not only allow participants to enjoy a better quality of food but to take back control of their meals. Learning how to reduce food waste will also make food go further, as well as the benefits to the environment. The extension of the Kindful Kitchen project will begin as a pilot in 2023-24, with the aim of continuing this work ongoing.