In the third of our series of blogs on preventing malnutrition in the community, we’re looking at the Casserole Club in Brighton
Casserole Club is a great way of both improving nutrition and creating friendships.
Developed by FutureGov in 2012, it matches volunteers who like to cook to ‘diners’ in their area who would benefit from a meal and a friendly chat.
It was brought to Brighton in 2016 courtesy of the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership, after research they did with Age UK Brighton and Hove found that a number of older people found it difficult to prepare meals or get to the shops, often due to health conditions like arthritis. Some were only eating ready meals, but found their reliance on them getting boring.
This is where the Casserole Club steps in.
Fusing the concept of befriending with the need for a nutritious meal, it sees volunteers registering as cooks on the Partnership’s website before finding ‘diners’ in their area they can share a meal with.
Once matched, the volunteer cooks and diners agree how often they will meet up. Often, the volunteer cooks bring over an extra portion of a meal they have cooked at home, and they and their diner will eat together – having conversations, sharing stories and allowing friendships to blossom. This is wonderful to see as being in social settings can really encourage people to eat, particularly those who are lonely, isolated or depressed.
Despite the majority of diners being over the age of 65, as it has grown in Brighton the project has seen an influx of diners from other age groups who may also be in need of a home-cooked meal and friendly chat.
“I look forward to seeing the [cook] every Wednesday. It’s a chance to have something homemade and different.”
A user of the Casserole Club in Brighton
Safety is paramount, and all the volunteer cooks are vetted and have their food hygiene knowledge assessed before they are matched with someone.
As well as providing nutritious food and reducing isolation, the Club has at times signposted ‘diners’ to other services they need to live well. This is thanks to the volunteer cooks who can flag up diners that may need extra assistance and the Club offering them advice about additional support that is available from the local council, NHS or Age UK Brighton and Hove.
So with the ability to tackle undernutrition, reduce isolation and improve wellbeing, let’s hope the Casserole Club initiative will continue to thrive in Brighton and beyond!