A great idea to support lonely old people in the community.
The ‘Casserole Club’ brings communities together over food. It’s a public service, says MattSkinner. Photograph: foodfolio / Alamy/Alamy
The idea behind Casserole Club is simple: we connect people who like to cook and are up for sharing an extra plate of hot, home-cooked food with a neighbour who could really benefit from one.
Casserole is supported by a website that allows you to sign up as a cook and search for diners in your area. The idea is the product ofFutureGov, a company that aims to improve public services through elegantly designed digital products.
The Casserole project is now growing after a successful pilot, in which over 200 plates of food were shared, in the Reigate and Banstead area in Surrey last year. We subsequently won funding through Nesta and will be working with Tower Hamlets council and Barnet Homes to roll out in their areas.
We’re looking to grow further and faster, and more than 1,600 people are now registered on the site across the UK, ready for Casserole to come to their area.
We learned a lot from our pilot by talking and working with our cooks and their diners, and have been working hard to implement improvements. One of our biggest challenges has been in signing up diners to the website, as over 80% of our diners are over 80 years old and more often than not they don’t have regular access to the internet. This has really brought home how much of an issue digital exclusion among older people is.
As a result we’ve been working hard to partner with local organisations in our rollout areas that can help us to find and sign up diners. We know from research, and from the hundreds of emails that we’ve had from organisations like councils and housing associations, that there are thousands who could benefit from the project across the UK. By working with local organisations and through their networks we’re helping to get more people involved, and hopefully raise awareness of digital exclusion.
Another challenge we’ve been grappling with is how to make sure that all of the people involved in the project feel safe and happy taking part. We’ve put a lot of thought into making sure that we get the balance right so that our barrier to entry isn’t too high that it’s off-putting for cooks, but at the same time we want to give reassurance to those eating the food. This is something that we will continue to work on as we grow the project with new participants.
It hasn’t been easy to get Casserole to where it is now, but it really has been worth it. We’ve had lots of positive feedback from our members, including Casserole cook Katie who told us: “Shared dining experiences have been the fabric of communities since forever, and if we want to “rebuild” communities, food seems like a good place to start.”
We think Casserole has the potential to help tackle the growing social problems of loneliness and malnutrition among older people, and at the same time help connect people with their neighbours. If you’re interested in signing up to Casserole just visit our website.
Matt Skinner is Casserole Club’s project lead. He tweets @skinner_m