Prepare to be Blown Away – Introducing the Caring Cooks of Jersey

A couple of weeks ago Melissa posted on our Facebook page to say she’d been inspired to start a similar community project in Jersey, after reading about Casserole in Waitrose magazine. After just a few months, Caring Cooks of Jersey has already grown to 40 volunteers cooking around 100 meals a week!

When Melissa first decided to start offering to cook for anyone going through a hard time, she was inundated with offers of help – and new people are still joining in every week. With so much help, Melissa was struggling to find people to cook for, and so got in touch with the local foodbank to offer meals to their community. This is now one of the main places the Caring Cooks support, allowing the foodbank to supply quality, nutritious, home-cooked frozen meals to their users, along with the normal food parcels – which is fantastic.

As well as the foodbank, the group have cooked for a women’s refuge whilst their kitchen was being refurbished, and regularly cook for a number of families – including a family of 7 where mum has serious heart problems and faces surgery soon.

The Caring Cooks’ Facebook group is full of posts that we can really only describe as heart-warming. It’s clearly a community of love, and also one that beginning to come together to do more than just cook meals.

A picnic in the park for everyone involved is planned for the summer, and they are beginning to run volunteer cooking days with local businesses. Cooks share recipe ideas, what they’re cooking, and are constantly lending each other equipment and donating food (a post today offers two chickens to anyone that can use them).

The whole of the Casserole team has been really touched to hear about the amazing work being done by the Caring Cooks of Jersey, and the fantastic impact they’re having on their community.

If you’re in Jersey and want to get involved, drop us a comment below, and we’ll put you in touch.

Keep up the good work, Caring Cooks!

Update: This post has sat in our drafts folder for a few weeks, and since we wrote it, the Caring Cooks have announced plans to start their own foodbank in partnership with a local community centre. How amazing is that?!

All photos from the Caring Cooks Facebook Group – thanks!

Happy Volunteers’ Week from Casserole Club!

Casserole Club Volunteers Week

Our Cooks are great and – as it’s Volunteer’s Week, we want to take this opportunity to celebrate the amazing work of the Casserole Club community to say a huge thank you!

So far, over 4,000 people across the country have signed up to Cook for older neighbours and we are constantly overwhelmed by their enthusiasm, generosity and kindness.

Casserole Club connects volunteers in the community (We call them Cooks) to older neighbours who would appreciate a home-cooked meal (We call them Diners). Cooks prepare a meal in their own home, popping a portion in a container and dropping it round later that day to an older neighbour we’ve matched them with.

Often our Cooks stay for a cup of tea and a chat too. It’s a great, simple way of getting to know our neighbours, sharing delicious and nutritious meals and encouraging lasting friendships within the local community.

Casserole Club has made a massive difference to the lives of people involved, inspiring both Cooks and Diners to eat healthy fresh meals.

As 71 year old Laurie says:

“Having Lyn (Cook) in my life has given me the impetus to eat better and nourish my body more, it’s great, i’m very grateful for this service”

But it’s not just about the food, new Cook Caroline who has just started sharing meals with Anna in Tower Hamlets says:

“Safe to say I think I have made a new friend”.

Despite leading a busy London life Caroline finds it relaxing to volunteer with Casserole Club as it gives her the opportunity to savour the simple things, encouraging her to make time to cook and enjoy sharing food with someone new!

So thank you to all of our amazing volunteers.

If you often have a spare portion of dinner and want to make a difference to an older person near you, how about joining Casserole Club rather than throwing it away?

You can signup online on the Casserole Club website.

Also if you know someone who might benefit from being a Diner with Casserole Club please do get in touch by emailing us at hello@casseroleclub.com.

P.S. We’ve been nominated in the Tech4Good awards, so if you’d like to support our volunteers, please do vote for us as the People’s Choice: http://www.tech4goodawards.com/vote

Taste the Difference: Casserole Club featured in Sainsbury’s Magazine

Casserole Club in Sainsbury's Magazine

Could cooking up an extra batch of meat and potatoes help bring a smile to someone’s face?

That’s the question asked in a Sainsbury’s Magazine article featuring Casserole Club.

In a brilliant double page article called “Casserole Crusader”, journalist and Casserole Cook Becky Howard describes her relationship with her lovely Diner Louie, who she has been sharing meals with through Casserole since last year.

“With the focus on strengthening community bonds, getting more people eating fresh food and reaching out to lonely elderly people, it seemed like something I’d actually be able to incorporate into my life.

It would be easy to portion off a big meal to deliver to a neighbour. And I love cooking.

Inspired, I signed up.”

The article story goes on to explain how Becky applied to be a Casserole Club Cook and the process she went through before being matched up with her Diner Louie, so it’s a great read for anyone who wants to find out more about a new Casserole Cook’s experience.

We are always looking for new Cooks, if you want to get involved in Casserole Club, go to http://casseroleclub.com to sign up.

If you know someone who could benefit from a regular home-cooked meal in Staffordshire, Barnet, Tower Hamlets, Whitstable or Reigate & Banstead, drop us a line at hello@casseroleclub.com or call us on 020 3475 3444.

5 Ways To Help Get Casserole Club In Your Area

One of the most exciting things about running Casserole Club is hearing from the enthusiastic people like you who really want to help make Casserole happen in their areas.

We really want to grow Casserole Club to cover the whole country, but are only able to start up in one area at a time, rather than letting everyone sign up and take part straightaway.

While it’s great to have so much enthusiasm from great people like you, at the moment we can only start Casserole in areas where we have support from an organisation like the local council, NHS board, or a housing association. Taking an area-by-area approach also means we can reach those people that need Casserole Club the most, rather than spread ourselves too thin.

If you’re not in one of our live areas (Barnet, Tower Hamlets and Reigate & Banstead), there are a few little things you can do to help us get to where you are.

1. Sign up at CasseroleClub.com

Make sure you’ve signed up at www.casseroleclub.com

When you sign up with your postcode, we can work out how many people are in each area of the country, which really helps us to get new areas signed up.

2.  Email your local councillors

Visit www.writetothem.com to find out who your councillors are, and tell them why you think they should bring Casserole to your area.

Perhaps you’ve noticed some of your older neighbours are isolated or at risk? Or feel that your area could do with its community spirit being bolstered? Or maybe you just want to share your great home cooking!

Whatever your motivations are, make sure you explain a little bit about what Casserole is, and tell them they can get in touch with us on hello@casseroleclub.com or 020 3475 3444 if they’re interested.

Oh, and make sure you let us know too – we want to make sure we say thank you :)

(Unfortunately we can’t give you a standard explanation of Casserole to send to your councillors, it would get picked up by the writetothem.com spam filters)

3. Spread the word on Facebook and Twitter

We’ve taken the liberty of suggesting a little something for Facebook or Twitter below, but don’t forget good old email or just having a chat!

Facebook:

I’ve just signed up to Casserole Club – a community meal sharing network that connects  you to an older neighbour who’d benefit from a home cooked meal and some company. Sign up at www.casseroleclub.com/cooks/sign_up and hopefully you can get cooking soon!

Twitter:

Just signed-up to @casserole_club, a community meal-sharing scheme. Check it out and sign up too – http://www.casseroleclub.com

And while you’re there, don’t forget to like Casserole Club on Facebook or follow @casserole_club on Twitter.

4. Help us spread the word

If you’re particularly up for helping spread the word about Casserole when we are near you, let us know in the comments.

As soon as we have an inkling we might be coming your way, you’ll be the first to hear.

5. Keep in touch

If you’ve got any other ideas, thoughts or suggestions of people we should be talking to, please just drop us a line to hello@casseroleclub.com – we love hearing from you!

Want to see Casserole Club come to your area? Sign up now (and be sure to tell your friends to as well!).

“Happy Meals”: Casserole Club featured in Red magazine



Casserole Club in Red Magazine - Happy Meals

We are really excited that Casserole Club has been featured in March’s issue of Red Magazine, one of our favourite lifestyle magazines!

In a beautiful double page spread, journalist Natasha Lunn meets with our fabulous Cook Oruj and her lovely Diner Munna who have been sharing meals through Casserole since last year.

Here’s a sneek preview of the article to whet your appetite:

“Sharing food is, and always has been, a bonding experience. And as warm, spicy smells of vegetable stew waft around the room, the sociable and inclusive mood is infectious.

An hour into my visit, I realise the food on the table is just an incidental extra. For Munna, the benefits are obvious: something to look forward to, some company and, most importantly, ‘a chance to laugh’. I sense that she, like so many other elderly people, has stark moments of loneliness.”

The heartwarming story goes on to explain how Munna and Oruj (and her children) have become really good friends through Casserole Club, showing that there’s much more to a Cook and Diner’s relationship than just sharing food.

Read more about Oruj and Munna’s story on the Red magazine website: “Why you should volunteer for Casserole Club”

We are always looking for new Cooks, if you want to get involved in Casserole Club, go to http://casseroleclub.com to sign up.

If you know someone who could benefit from a regular home-cooked meal in Barnet, Reigate and Banstead, Tower Hamlets or Staffordshire, drop us a line at hello@casseroleclub.com or call us on 020 3475 3444.


New Video on Casserole Club and Food for the Elderly

Food For The Elderly - Watch Casserole Club

Beth Price from Bournemouth University has put together a brilliant video of Casserole Club as part of her Food for the Elderly project:

“British families throw away the equivalent of six meals worth of food every week, meals that could easily be shared with an elderly neighbour who struggles with cooking.

One London based scheme is determined to tackle the issue of malnutrition and isolation by bringing people together over food.

With the number of meals-on-wheels being delivered decreasing year by year community initiatives are becoming even more important and you can find out more about the work Casserole Club is doing by watching the video below.”

As part of the video, Beth interviewed Carrie Bishop, who helped start Casserole Club. Here’s what Carrie had to say about the project:

“We thought food is clearly a social object, it’s something that brings people together. Soe started to think is there a way for communities could cook for each other. We had the idea of Casserole Club and we started to test it out at bit. People really seemed to respond really well to the idea, which is why we decided to take it forward.”

As Beth mentions at the end of her video, if you’d like to get involved with Casserole Club as cook, or you know someone who would benefit from having a hot meal delivered to their door, then visit the website and sign up.

There’s no pressure for you to cook multiple meals, you can just cook and deliver one meal and leave the club again but if you enjoy it you can keep cooking for the same people as often as you would like.

Even if the Casserole Club isn’t in your area yet, you can still register your interest by signing up online.

Thanks for the great video, Beth!

Happy Boxing Day. What could you do for your neighbour today?

Today we’re asking what could you do for your neighbour?

In the last year, our wonderful Casserole Cooks have been sharing extra portions of delicious home cooked food with older Diners in Barnet, Tower Hamlets, and Reigate & Banstead in Surrey.

They’ve helped hundreds people who might not be able to cook for themselves and brought a little companionship to people who may live on their own.

On Boxing Day, we want to encourage people to think about their older neighbours who might be spending their Christmas alone, and how you could help them.

Do you know of an older neighbour who lives on their own? Why not take them a portion of food or invite them round for a cuppa? You’ll be bringing cheer to someone who might be lonely this Christmas.

Share what you can with them and share the story with us! We’ll re-post the best stories sent to us on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so send us your stories and photos and make this Casserole Christmas one to remember.

Even if you can’t break way from family commitments (or from watching movies on the sofa) make sure you check in on your older neighbours in the cold weather, especially if it’s icy or snows.

And if you’re concerned for someone’s welfare, remember to call your local Community Police team on 101, who can help people through what can be a difficult time of the year.

We hope you’ve had a fantastic Christmas. Please sign up to Casserole Club if you fancy meeting someone new in 2014 and sharing good food and company with them throughout the year.

Food and the City: How do new food systems impact on our cities?

Last week, Matt Skinner from Casserole Club took part in the sixth Design Culture Salon, a series of occasional discussion events hosted by the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

This event’s theme was “Food and the City”:

“Re-thinking food has also been combined with the delivery of public services, improving the urban environment and enhancing community cohesion. These projects are varied in their methods,visions and goals and have socio-cultural, economic and environmental repercussions, as well as the potential to catalyse a politically active citizenship. What can we learn from these food based initiatives? What are their aims and approaches and how far do they achieve their goals?”

The chair for the evening, Gabriel Wulff, began by saying that from ‘guerilla gardening’ to ‘urban bee-keeping’, the topic of designing food systems has been building an audience in the UK.

Matt spoke about how designing food initiatives like Casserole Club can impact our cities:

“While ‘foodie culture’ in Britain has created ripe conditions for people to share recipes and cooking stories online, Casserole Club’s diners (most of whom are aged over 70 and are socially isolated) are not well-connected to this.

Technological and cultural barriers need to be negotiated. It has been key to work with local councils in addressing these issues of isolation.”

Matt also positioned Casserole Club alongside others community food projects, such as the Incredible Edible project.

“What we are learning from this and other projects is that food, in particular home-cooked and home-grown food, is a powerful tool for bringing people together.

The visibility of these projects is a factor in their success, whether through online platforms or in physical spaces in the city.”

You can read the full write up of the Food and the City event over on the Design Culture Salon blog.

The next Design Culture is on 10 January 2014 at 7pm in the V&A Museum, London on the subject of “Transparency in Design”. Booking is free, but essential. Book here.

Photo by mattjiggins

Top 5 Mince Pie Recipes for Christmas

Christmas Mince Pies

In the last year our wonderful Casserole Club Cooks have been sharing extra portions of delicious home cooked food with older Diners in Barnet, Tower Hamlets, and Reigate & Banstead in Surrey.

But after so many meals shared, what if you’re struggling to think of something different to bring your older neighbour when you visit them this Christmas?

Or what if you want a little extra something when you share a meal over the Christmas period?

Never fear, Casserole Club is here!

The traditional mince pie is a great way to celebrate Christmas as a seasonal pudding for a Casserole Club meal share.

Here’s our top 5 mince pie recipes to help you get in the Christmas spirit and share a treat with your neighbour – and make it a very #CasseroleChristmas indeed.

1. Unbelievably easy mince pies

Found on the BBC Good Food website, you can throw the dough around and the mince pies still come out crisp and biscuity in this kid-friendly Christmas recipe.

2. Nigella’s Star-Topped Mince Pies

We’re definitely on #TeamNigella this Christmas, especially after finding this recipe for star-topped mince pies. They are small, to be popped straight into the mouth in one go; the pastry is plain, the better to contrast with the rich, fruited filling; and they have not full casings but little stars as lids, which makes them look beautiful and taste flutteringly light.

3. Vegan Mince Pies

We love the soft, crumbly texture of these mince pies, based on a combination of coconut flour and cashews. Plus you can use any exam jam as a spread. Yum!

4. Delia’s Traditional Mince Pies

The queen of cooking comes to the rescue with her traditional mince pies. A traditional family recipe, Delia says she “will always cherish fond memories of my mother’s and my grandmother’s cooling trays piled high with freshly baked mince pies on Christmas Eve, ready to be packed into tins and brought out whenever friends popped in for Christmas drinks.”

5. Frangipane mince pies

A twist on a Christmas classic from Mary Berry. You will need deep mince-pie tins for these sweet treats.

Want an excuse to try making one of these recipes? Sign up to Casserole Club and find an older neighbour who would love to meet you and try one of your mince pies!

Casserole Club Story: Vijaya and Tom

This Christmas, we’re asking our Cooks to share a portion of their Christmas dinner with an older neighbour this Boxing Day. We’re calling it the #CasseroleChristmas campaign.

To inspire you, we’ll be sharing stories from current Casserolers, so you can get a feel for our community and find out the difference you can make through Casserole Club.

Inspired by Tom and Vijaya’s story? Sign up now to Casserole Club.

  • Casserolers: Vijaya (Cook) and Tom (Diner)
  • Location: Barnet, London
  • Dates: Matched in June 2013
  • Meals shared: Approximately 20
  • When: Every Sunday afternoon

Casserole Club's Tom and Vijaya

Vijaya’s Casserole Club Story

Vijaya is a Casserole Club Cook. She has cooked for Tom over twenty times now, having shared a wide variety of food from chicken curry, pumpkin soup to shepherds pie.

Not being content with just delivering one extra portion, Vijaya usually delivers two, so Tom is guaranteed to have at least two hot meals a week:

Vijaya joined Casserole Club after hearing about it from a work colleague:

“I think its fabulous, I’ve said that from the beginning. When I usually deliver his meal, I bring enough for two days. It’s nice to know I can give somebody a home cooked meal. To me that is important.”

After signing up, the Casserole Club matchmaking team introduced her to Tom. Even though Tom lives twenty minutes drive away from Vijaya, she has found the time since July to visit him once a week.

Since meeting Tom, Vijaya has got to know all about him, his family and his hobbies. When she goes over to deliver his meal, she usually stays for a cup of tea and they talk in detail about Tom’s family life and what he is getting up to over the week to come.

Having got to know Tom, Vijaya is concerned for his wellbeing. When she goes to visit him she not only asks about what is currently happening in his life, but also offers friendly advice on who to speak to in certain situations:

“There are probably a lot of people who don’t go out, so they’re not getting that hot meal and that’s the biggest problem. I will do Casserole Club until I can’t do it anymore.”

Although Vijaya has got to know Tom very well over the last five months, she would also like to meet new Diners in her area. She would like to meet other older people who would benefit from sharing one of her home cooked meals and getting to know a friendly neighbour.

Vijaya’s passion for the project is obvious. Although she is concerned about not being able to Cook for Tom forever, she trusts Casserole Club to locate new Cooks for Tom when she feels she is unable to share her food for him any longer.

Tom’s Casserole Club Story

Tom is a Casserole Club Diner. He lives alone in a flat in West Barnet where he shares a weekly meal with Vijaya, his current Casserole Club Cook.

Tom signed up to Casserole Club at a day centre he goes to twice a week. Although he likes to go to this centre, it’s opening hours have recently changed from five to two days a week. This means he spends more time in his flat than before:

Although he could go to another local day centre, he feels he may not fit in with people he doesn’t know. This means that his social group is getting smaller.

Tom has been sharing food with Vijaya since July and looks forward to his meal share every week. When she comes over they sit and chat about everything from his latest bingo game to what his family it up to over Christmas. Its clear to see that a friendship has started to grow though sharing a weekly meal:

“I rather like it. It’s just somebody to come over. It’s nice, it’s just what I wanted.”

Being an avid bingo player, Tom likes to keep Vijaya updated with the latest bingo politics. Knowing this Vijaya has even offered to go and play soon with him.

Although Tom and Vijaya’s friendship has grown, he is still very grateful every week when she comes to visit him. Every time the matchmaking team speak to him after a meal share, he always has good things to say about his Cook.

Although Tom is still amazed that people would bother cooking for him, he now is able to see that the project is growing . He can see that local people do want to meet and get to know him over a home cooked meal.

Thanks to Tom and Vijaya for sharing their thoughts with us.

Inspired by Tom and Vijaya’s story? Sign up now to Casserole Club.