The owners of an Upper Arlington restaurant that focuses on locally sourced and pesticide-free food will launch a foundation in August they hope will help facilitate conversations about mental health and the role of nutrition in overall wellness.
Since opening SOW Plated at Shops on Lane Avenue in July 2019, John and Sunny Fahlgren have sought to “celebrate eating at its highest level” with a menu that focuses heavily on natural and local offerings.
SOW is an acronym for sustainable, organic and wellness.
The couple plans to continue the message that healthy eating can help foster healthy bodies and minds by establishing the Wall of Hope Foundation, which John Fahlgren said will seek to provide fresh, high-quality, nutrient-rich meals for families enduring a mental-health crisis while also educating people about the critical role of food in optimizing mental health.
After gathering initial funding, setting up a board of directors and partnering with The Columbus Foundation, a 501c3 that assists donors and others in strengthening the community, the Fahlgrens are to announce the establishment of the Wall of Hope Foundation at an OAR concert Aug. 7 at Kemba Live. An advisory board of Wall of Hope founding partners are to provide strategic counsel to the foundation.
“Our approach has been more … trying to look at the person as a whole,” Fahlgren said. “We certainly believe in medication, but we also believe that you should approach the mental-health conversation proactively. That means self-preservation, taking time for yourself, yoga, eating right.
“Nutrition has been a too-often-overlooked piece of the mental-health equation. We do know that there is an evidence-based relationship that food has with our brain. We’re just trying to bring awareness to the fact that we are what we eat.”
Various studies over the past 20 years have sought to further examine the relationship between food and mood. One, published in January 2020 by the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, an independent scientific association dedicated to science and treatment of brain disorders, found evidence that a Mediterranean diet, rich in vegetables and olive oil, shows mental health benefits such as giving some protection against depression and anxiety.
Through the foundation, the Fahlgrens intends to raise $150,000 by Aug. 1 to fund an opening campaign named Operation Hope. Much of this funding will be sourced from a small group of families and businesses aligned with this movement, John Fahlgren said.
At SOW Plated, a “round it up” program will be instituted through which restaurant guests can choose to round-up the amount they pay for their checks to the nearest dollar, with 100% of the money raised directly supporting the foundation’s initiatives.
Fahlgren said the scope and reach of Wall of Hope Foundation still is being developed, but plans are for the money it raises to support educational materials about the role nutrient-rich food plays in mental-health wellness at places such as Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the Ohio State University, Grandview Heights High School, Upper Arlington High School and The Wellington School.
“We’re going to start with the Tri-Village high schools as a more hyperlocal piece of this,” Fahlgren said. “Beyond that, we eventually want to get out into all central Ohio high schools and provide educational tools – books, videos and so forth.”
The foundation also would provide funds for educational materials and emergency food assistance to families facing mental-health crises while at Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Ronald McDonald Room at the Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion.
At OSU, Fahlgren said, the foundation will provide meals to patients and staff of Harding Hospital “or like thereof as suggested by our OSU partners,” as well as funding for clinical research projects within the OSU Wexner Medical Center studying the relationship between food and mood.
“We need more people like John and Sunny to elevate the conversation,” said Dr. K. Luan Phan, professor and chair of OSU Wexner Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health. “They have a passion for the connection between nutrition science and how what we eat can heal us.
“Any time you can bring individuals, businesses and community resources together around a cause like this, amazing things like the Wall of Hope Foundation will take shape and have impact. For cultivating mental health and well-being of the community, we need as many science- and evidence-based approaches as possible beyond what is delivered in clinical settings and by clinical providers. All of us need to be engaged in our health and in this case, thinking about how and what we eat could have a tremendous impact – positive and negative – on our mood and cognition.”
Phan said OSU Wexner officials decided to partner with the Wall of Hope Foundation because “the need to conduct research to better understand the causes (of mental illnesses) and explore new, innovative treatments is critical if we are to heal our children, families and communities .”
While more details are expected over the coming months, Fahlgren said the foundation also intends to launch a public-service announcement campaign that will feature numerous celebrities, athletes and others with connections to central Ohio and who have been affected by mental illness.