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Food and Mood Project

About the Project

About the Project

Over the last several years, regional staff from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — specifically the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) — and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service have been delving deeply into the impact of food on our mood. The Food and Mood Project aims to promote emotional wellness and reduce the impact of mental health and substance use conditions by identifying and implementing strategies that address the intersection between behavioral health, food/nutrition security, traditional foods, and cultural food diversity.

Contact Us

Traci Pole, M.B.A., M.S.
Region 8, Senior Regional Advisor
Byron Rogers Federal Building
1961 Stout Street, 11th Floor
Denver, CO 80294
(303) 844-1205

Please reach out if you’d like to receive the bi-monthly listserve.



All children, youth, and their families are nourished and thriving, with their nutritional and mental health and wellness needs prioritized and met throughout their communities.

Mission and Vision


The Food and Mood project provides leadership and resources – programs, effective interventions, information and data, funding, and personnel – to examine the relationship between nutrition security and mental and substance use disorders across the service delivery continuum to improve public health and achieve wellness.

The team collectively identifies and initiates the implementation of strategies that leverage programs such as the USDA’s Farm to School program, USDA Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative, and the CDC’s WSCC model to promote youth emotional wellness and to address behavioral health problems, including those related to food insecurity and lack of access to cultural food.

Our Goal


The Food and Mood Framework is a tool for orienting individuals and organizations to these shared goals:

  • Recognize the multidimensional elements to health, by taking a whole-person approach.
  • Promote emotional wellness by integrating nutrition and health.
  • Improve access to culturally informed and appropriate food for the creation of health and well-being, not just the absence of disease.
  • Support the development and implementation of evidence-based and culturally appropriate services to reduce the impact of mental health and substance use issues in school-aged (K-12) youth.
Pillars and Regions

Pillars of Food and Mood

  1. Equitable access to resources
    An increase in the amount of flexible funding to enable equitable access to nutritious, culturally appropriate foods and emotional wellness related services.
  2. Multi-disciplinary community engagement
    A change in the perspective of mental health at the community level that engages with social determinants of health (SDoH), creating employment opportunities and more effective support systems.
  3. Meaningful and holistic curriculum that is culturally informed
    The implementation of culturally appropriate Food and Mood learning opportunities that promote food and emotional wellness. The creation of a Food and Mood toolkit that is widely distributed to increase knowledge of the link between food and emotional wellness.
  4. An inclusive, normalizing public dialogue
    A decrease in stigma behind food and emotional wellness through public education, national campaigns, and public dialogue.

Featured Resources

Food and Mood Planning Committee

Food and Mood Planning Committee

Last Updated
Last Updated: 07/19/2023
Last Updated