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.

How you can help the half a million older people who spend Christmas alone

Loneliness and isolation unfortunately is a reality for many older people in the UK all year round.

Older people are hit even harder at Christmas, which can be the loneliest time of the year for them.

Here are just some of the facts (source: Age UK):

  • In the UK, more than half of all people aged over eighty are lonely
  • About 3.8 million older people live alone
  • Half a million older people spend Christmas alone
  • 70% of these are women over 65
  • 17% (480,000) said that Christmas brought back too many memories of those who had passed away.
  • Almost 2 million people (18%) are worried about not being able to get out and about as much because of shorter, darker days and poor weather conditions.

This is shocking.

To help combat the problem, the NHS has called for an army of good samaritans in England to become a ‘Winter Friend’ to neighbours who may be at risk during cold weather.

At Casserole Club, we’re committed to reducing loneliness, so we’re encouraging people from across the UK to become a Winter Friend and share a portion of their Christmas dinner with an older neighbour this Boxing Day.

If you live in Barnet, Tower Hamlets or Reigate & Banstead, sign up today and we’ll match you up to an older person – not just for Christmas, but over the winter period so you can build a warm relationship throughout the cold winter months.

If Casserole Club isn’t currently in your area we’d still love you to sign up so we can let you know when we’re live in your area.

Casserole Club and other support services can help reduce loneliness and isolation , but it is you – the people and the communities across the UK – that play the biggest part.

Sign up now to get cooking »

If anyone is worried about an older person this winter, you can also call the Age UK Advice on 0800 169 65 65 for expert advice on staying warm and keeping well. Lines are open from 8am to 7pm, 7 days a week.

Photo: j thorn explains it all / flickr

5 Tips to Make the Most of Christmas Markets

Casserole Club Christmas Markets

As you may have noticed, Christmas has begun for Team Casserole. The #CasseroleChristmas campaign has seen loads of people from across the UK pledge to share their a portion of their Christmas food with an older neighbour this boxing day.

Last Sunday, to help spread the Christmas cheer, the Barnet community joined Team Casserole to sign up as new Cooks and get people sharing their Christmas leftovers. It was great to meet the people of Barnet and spread some Christmas cheer on a cold December day.

Because, you know what they say: it’s simply not Christmas time until you’ve been to the High Barnet Christmas Fayre!

So, we thought we’d share our top tips for making the most of Christmas markets if you’re running a stall this year and so you know what to expect if you spot us at a Christmas market near you.

1. Be Prepared: Bring along Santa’s Little Helpers

Casserole Club Christmas Markets

No, that’s not a real elf. But it can help to have some friendly helpers (ideally at least 3) to man your stall and encourage people to come over to find out more about Casserole Club. And we’ll definitely be watching Elf on Channel 4 this Christmas (a great British tradition).

2. Stand Out From the Crowd: Wear a stylish hat and a bright orange megaphone

Casserole Club Christmas Markets

Even an elf flown all the way in from the North Pole might not be enough to get people’s attention, especially in a busy Christmas market. That’s why it can be useful to have a helping hand in the form of a rather attractive chefs hat and orange megaphone.

3. Stickers Are Great: But understand you can’t make everyone happy

Casserole Club Christmas Markets

Despite wearing the very sought after Casserole Club sticker, this little one is not impressed with how easy it is to help out an older neighbour this Christmas through Casserole Club. Her mum looks like she’s having a great time though, so hopefully she’s signed up as a cook and will be sharing a portion of good, home cooked food with a neighbour in the next few weeks.

4. Try out different ways of approaching people to find one that works

Casserole Club Christmas Markets

We’ve experimented with different ways of getting people over to our stall. From a map of diners in the nearby area, to a “pin the nose on the reindeer” game, we tried out lots of different incentives for get people’s interest. And it worked! For example, this lovely lady is signing up to Casserole Club. We’ll be emailing her this week to match her with an older neighbour near her and she’ll be warming the heart of one of our diners very soon.

5. A smile is always welcome on a cold day

Casserole Club Christmas Markets

At the Christmas market,  125 Cooks signed up to Casserole Club, which is pretty amazing and why our team have big smiles on their faces. But we reckon we can smash that this week.

This Saturday we’ll be at East Finchley, and you have the chance to meet one of Santa’s ACTUAL REINDEER (they can’t tell us which one for security reasons, Blitzen is quite the celeb these days after the Justin Bieber episode).

So hope to see you on Saturday 7 December 2013 at the East Finchley Christmas market. But if you can’t make it along, make sure you find out more about the #CasseroleChristmas campaign and sign up to Casserole Club.

Caring at Christmas: 5 Ways to Help This Winter

Caring at Christmas: Casserole Club in the Big Issue

We love sharing stories of how our wonderful Cooks help through Casserole Club and like it even more when our brilliant community helps spread the word for us.

Our friends at The Big Issue included Casserole Club in their special bumper Christmas issue in an article called “Caring At Christmas”

Our fantastic Cook Oruj was quoted talking about her experience of Casserole Club. Here’s what she had to say:

“I wanted to do something after a neighbour passed away. She suffered a heart attack and feel down the stairs and no one noticed for three days. It made me realise this could happen and I was so wrapped up in my own life that I wouldn’t even notice.

I decided to contact Casserole Club. I started cooking for an elderly woman called Munna whose family live far away. She’s a wonderful, feisty Bengali woman and we see her at least once a week.

We’ve got to know her very well and my two little girls and me will take her out for the day. Very rewarding”

We loved the other tips included in the article, so we’ve published the top 5 here:

5 Ways to Help This Winter

  1. Pop in and see (or call on the phone) an older friend or relative regularly
  2. Do your bit to help out when the cold weather hits, from clearing paths to getting the shopping in for an older neighbour
  3. Get a free thermometer and “Winer Wrapped Up” advice guide from Age UK by calling 0800 169 65 65 and pass to an older friend
  4. Sign the NHS “Winter Friends” pledge to do your bit looking out for neighbours by visiting nhs.uk/WinterFriends
  5. Suss out volunteering opportunities with local groups or Age UK, Contact the Elderly, Independent Age, the royal Voluntary Service or Friends of the Elderly

These are all great tips, so make sure you sign up to Casserole Club if it’s live in your area or pledge help out this winter by doing one of the above.

And if you spot a Big Issue vendor this Christmas, make sure you buy a copy of the magazine. It’s only £3, is a bumper edition especially for Christmas, and you’re be giving someone a hand up, not a handout, this Christmas.

Love Food? Love Helping This Christmas

Everyone should have Christmas dinner this year.

That’s the message we wanted to get across when we spoke to LoveFood.com about Casserole Club.

The article is part of our #CasseroleChristmas campaign, where we’re asking our Cooks to share a portion of their Christmas dinner with an older neighbour this Boxing Day.

You can read the full article here, but we’ve also copied the piece below for your reading pleasure.

If you feel inspired by the Love Food article, sign up to Casserole Club or check out our #CasseroleChristmas campaign.

Love Food Christmas Logo

The Casserole Club: everyone should have Christmas dinner this year

I love the feeling of preparing for the big Christmas dinner. Roast potatoes smothered in gravy, stuffing the turkey until it’s full, and then sitting down with family and friends to share food and stories.

Neighbours in need

But for whatever reason, not everyone has the money/time/ability to cook a slap-up Christmas dinner of their own… and that’s where The Casserole Club steps in. In case you didn’t catch this lovefood article back in May, here’s a recap about what the club does: we connect local people so that those with extra portions of home-cooked food can share their leftovers with neighbours in need, most of whom are elderly. We’re like a local, community-led takeaway service.

Over the past year, many wonderful ‘Casserole Cooks’ have been sharing extra portions of delicious home-cooked food with older ‘Casserole Diners’ in Barnet, Tower Hamlets, and Reigate & Banstead in Surrey. We’ll be expanding to other areas soon.

Sophie and Nora

To take one example, 51-year-old actress and Casserole Club ‘Cook’ Sophie Thompson is currently sharing a weekly meal with 85+ year-old ‘Diner’ Nora. “I heard about Casserole Club when I saw a poster in a local shop window,” said Sophie. “I thought, ‘ooh what a great idea!’ so I got in touch. I met up with a member of the Casserole Club team and they took me through a few things and explained how it worked and took my photo.”

“I think it’s great because it’s a way of meeting new people in the community… and being a part of Casserole Club gives Nora’s daughter a break too, as she knows her mother can get a meal every Friday from me.”

But there are still many elderly people who remain socially isolated in this country. Recent Age UK research shows that more than 50% of over 80-year-olds in the UK are lonely; the same report suggested that malnutrition amongst older people is increasing. It is estimated that 1.3 million people aged over 65 suffer from malnutrition, which most of the time is preventable.

How you can help

Over the festive season we want to encourage people to think about their older neighbours who might be spending Christmas alone, and how you could help them by taking part in projects like the Casserole Club.

Here are a couple of ways to help an older neighbour this Christmas:

  • Pop in for a cup of tea to make sure they’re ok
  • If it’s snowing outside and dangerous for them to go out, offer to pop to the shops for them to pick up anything they need
  • Offer to test their smoke alarms – many older people don’t realise when their alarms aren’t working
  • Look out for signs that your older neighbour might not be well – post piling up behind door/in mailbox; milk accumulating on doorstep; curtains not moving; distressed pets

This year, we’re also asking our Cooks to share a portion of their Christmas dinner with an older neighbour on Boxing Day.

We’d love to see lots of lovefood readers get involved with Casserole Club, as we know your food will be truly appreciated by an older person this Christmas.

If you live in Barnet, Tower Hamlets or Reigate & Banstead, then sign up to Casserole Club and we can match you with an older neighbour this Christmas. If Casserole Club isn’t currently in your area, we’d still love you to sign up so we can let you know when we’re active in your neighbourhood.

And remember – try and save a portion of your Christmas dinner for an elderly neighbour this year.

Casserole Club’s #CasseroleChristmas Campaign

Ah, Christmas.

Here at Casserole Club we love the feeling of preparing for the big Christmas dinner. Roast potatoes smothered in gravy. Stuffing the turkey until it’s full, then sitting down with family and friends to share food and stories.

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.

Over the festive season we want to encourage people to think about their older neighbours who might be spending Christmas alone, and how you could help them by taking part in projects like the Casserole Club.

That’s why this year we’re asking our Cooks to share a portion of their Christmas dinner with an older neighbour this Boxing Day.

If you live in Barnet, Tower Hamlets or Reigate & Banstead, then sign up to Casserole Club and we can match you with an older neighbour this Christmas.

If Casserole Club isn’t currently in your area we’d still love you to sign up so we can let you know when we’re live in your area.

Throughout December we’ll be sharing 25 ways to help, including how to take part in Casserole Club if you live in one of our active areas, some of our Cooks’ favourite Christmas recipes and some heartwarming Casserole Club stories to get you in the festive mood.

You can follow along by liking the Casserole Club Facebook page, following @Casserole_Club on Twitter or checking back on this blog for the latest updates.

We’re calling it the #CasseroleChristmas campaign. Get involved here.

BBC Radio 5 takes a Look at Social Isolation and Loneliness in Today’s Older Generation

Photo by Pedro Ribeiro Simões

Less than 40% of care home users say they have as much social contact as they would like. That is a staggering statistic that presenter Shelaugh Fogarty gave on her BBC Radio 5 show – and that’s not including the older people who don’t go to care homes.

Fogarty spent the day at the Peartree Centre in Milton Keynes at an event hosted by Age UK, with dozens of older people who gather at the centre for some much needed socialising.

We have lots of Diners signed up to Casserole Club and many of them have similar experiences to those people that Shelaugh met in Milton Keynes. They are not only receiving meals, but meeting someone new in their area. To these people, it’s not so much about the food as it is about having someone come into their home, asking how they are and wanting to hear about their day.

People like Elsie, 84, whom Fogarty interviewed, say it’s the worst feeling, being lonely. Elsie dresses herself up everyday – even Sundays when she won’t see anyone all day – and has won awards for volunteering. But, she wonders, “how come my family don’t come around to visit me any more?” Elsie says she has children and grandchildren, yet she will go days without seeing anyone.

Jim, also 84, lost his wife of 56-years, a few years ago and retreated from social activities to deal with his grief: “The one thing no one prepares you for is loneliness,” says Jim. “ And if you look at it, the worst punishment you could actually give somebody is to put them in social confinement. And there’s so many people in that situation.” He said getting back involved with things and activities he used to do pulled him out of his grief. He now lives with his lovely son and and daughter-in-law in a separate part of their home and says he is very happy.

Mary, another attendee at the Peartree Centre, lives on her own and originally comes from a big family. Now, however, Mary said she can go all week without seeing anyone. She is not used to this loneliness during the week, explaining that it is only recent, as everyone is gone. When it comes to the weekend, however, her grandchildren always visit, and she says it instantly brightens her day.

Hearing stories like this really makes you realise how much one phone call, or one chat over a cup of tea, can mean to an older person. Last month, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt stated, “According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, there are 800,000 people in England who are chronically lonely.” When you hear a number like that, how could you not want to donate even 5 minutes of your time to someone who just wants some company?

At Casserole Club, we are already hard at work to minimise that number. If you want to get involved in the campaign to end loneliness, sign up on the Casserole Club website, and if we are live in your borough, you can start cooking for, and visiting an older neighbour near you.

If you know an older person, whether it be a neighbour, parent, or a friend, you can refer them to us and we will find them a Cook.


If you want to hear more from Shelaugh Fogarty and her visit to the Peartree centre in Milton Keynes, click here to listen to the whole show.