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Project battling social isolation with home-cooked meals goes from strength-to-strength

Sharing food builds local community relationships and saves on food waste. Picture: Casserole Club

Casserole Club, currently running in three areas of London and the south east, allows people to share extra portions of home-prepared food with neighbours.

Established in 2012 by FutureGov, a company using digital products to improve public services, Casserole Club aims to get more people to cook fresh food while strengthening neighbourhood relationships “with every bite”.

Website allows people to sign up as would-be cooks and also as someone who could benefit from a hot, home-cooked meal and who may not be able to cook for themselves – diners. The service also works with people who are not online.

The project was initially developed with Surrey County Council and Reigate and Banstead Borough Council. It was also funded with help from the Design Council and the Technology Strategy Board’s Independence Matters - Home and Away programme. The project was recently featured in a government report on social isolation: Loneliness and the Care Crisis.

As well as utilising the efficiencies inherent in cooking for more people at once, Casserole Club also helps tackle the issue of food waste and to rebuild community ties, largely lost in many areas.

Sharing home cooked meals can help decrease the loneliness people feel. Picture: Casserole Club

Casserole Club’s Ingrid Karikari said: “In terms of impact, we know that loneliness and isolation can lead to a lower quality of life. By matching people in need of meals with cooks in their area, they are not only receiving a home cooked meal but beginning to strengthen neighbourhoods. For us, sharing food is a means to build local relationships, and because the service lets local communities share easily, it has the ability to adapt and develop anywhere in the UK and beyond.”

Research carried out during the project’s conception found that one of the biggest barriers to giving was time. So Casserole Club was shaped around this constraint.

“The time that people do have tends to be in small parts, and at odd times,  so we decided to create a service that intertwines those pockets of time with something people are already doing - cooking dinner - to easily enable people to slip giving into their lives, regardless of how hectic they might be,” explained Karikari.

Sharing food and creating neighbourhood networks at the same time. Picture: Casserole Club

“Sharing food is anything but a new concept, however we found few people had the neighbourhood networks to allow them to find people who were in need of a meal. Casserole uses what we’ve learnt from other food networks, meals on wheels services, and anecdotes of “how things once were” to rethink how using social technology design could rekindle these neighbourhood connections. 

“Building community means breaking down the barriers that have prevented its formation in the first place. Along with the service, we have been working to develop a new ways of building security and trust within a service that favours personal accountability and social connections over bureaucratic systems.”

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By Lucy

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