From our launch more 36 years ago to the present day, our organisation has grown and evolved over time.
1982 - 2001: Linking nutrition, brain health and behaviour
We were founded in 1983, when a psychologist noticed the positive impact of communal eating on the young offenders on probation he was working with. The ‘family meal’ experiences offered to the young women and men on probation afforded an opportunity to explore new ways of connecting and interacting. However, it soon became apparent that the nutritional value of the food itself had at least as profound an impact as the social aspect.
Registered as a charity, we focused on exploring the link between nutrition and behaviour for people within the criminal justice system. Named Natural Justice, we became a company limited by guarantee in 1984.
2002 - 2009: Pioneering research
During this period our key aim was to demonstrate, through rigorous scientific trials, the impact of nutrition on brain health and offending behaviour.
In collaboration with the University of Surrey, we undertook a groundbreaking clinical trial at Aylesbury Young Offenders Institute. Overall 231 young people took part in our Aylesbury Study, a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial to examine whether (as a proxy for a good diet) nutritional supplements of micronutrients essential to brain function could positively affect behaviour. The findings were startling - violent behaviour amongst those receiving the active ingredients reduced by 37% and there were 26% fewer offences overall.
In partnership with the University of Oxford, we replicated this trial with 771 young men across three other Young Offenders Institutes - Polmont, Lancaster Farms and Hindley. In this 3 Prisons Study, serious offences such as violence were reduced by 17%. Our model was then used in studies by colleagues in the Netherlands, who found similar results.
In 2009, the Bradley Report was published, highlighting the large scale of mental health issues and learning disabilities within prisons. The report called for earlier intervention and more creative ways of supporting people within the criminal justice system. Recognising the urgent need for engagement in this area, we began to consider how we could support these calls to action.
2010 - 2018: Influencing earlier intervention
Building on the Bradley Report findings and recommendations, we recognised a need to properly consider learning, mental health and earlier intervention. To do this, we expanded our criminal justice system focus to look at the impact of nutrition across life stages and key conditions. This included pregnancy, early years, adolescence, adulthood, and the ageing brain, as well as learning and mental health. To better reflect this broader remit, we became the Institute for Food, Brain and Behaviour.
Prisons and secure environments remained a priority for us, but to help us achieve earlier intervention, we also reached out into schools, and worked to influence the national conversation.
Our work with schools commenced with research in tandem with the University of Oxford. The Robert Clack School Study showed that levels of misbehaviour lessened among students taking part. We also launched the Henry Kitchener Prize, an annual prize for young people, and engaged in a partnership with a school catering company, providing advice on menu development.
To better influence national change we developed a range of resources to raise awareness around our priorities, utilising our research, the expertise of our Science Advisory Council, and carefully scrutinised work of other globally renowned neuroscientists in this field.
We worked to shape the policy agenda through a number of policy submissions, shared guidance on the brain’s requirements in pregnancy, early years and adolescence with partner organisations, and built an online information hub of videos and resource materials on our website.
Our annual lectures, given by leading international scientists, continued to help set the agenda, drawing an influential audience.
Our lectures and engagement with the Ministry of Justice and Governors across various private and public sector prisons continued to highlight the benefits of nutritional programmes within the prisons environment.
2019: Translating research into impact
Through our conversations across the criminal justice system, we have found close alignment with our focus on improving nutritional education and food options and an appetite for support in delivering these changes.
Ready to adapt and evolve as ever, we recognised that to achieve real change we had to do more than provide evidence of impact. We needed to translate nutritional research into clear information and creative solutions, empowering people to think through nutrition themselves and make positive changes.
With this in mind, we began building programmes for prisons at the start of 2019, initiating our first hands-on project at HMP Eastwood Park.
With a focus on translation, we also recognised the need to make sure that our message - and our science - is easy to understand and feels accessible to all. To reflect our new approach and the latest step on our journey, we took the decision to rebrand as Think Through Nutrition in Spring 2019, retaining the Institute for Food, Brain and Behaviour as our legal name.