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 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.

Lessons Learnt – Casserole texting and sharing

With a first small step into foodie matchmaking under our belts, bringing together three satisfied Diners and six stellar Cooks delivering top-notch meals, it’s time for a bit of reflection. With that in mind and as promised in the post ‘A New Year‘, the next few blogs will start to delve a bit into what we’ve learnt so far, and how this is helping shape Casserole as a service.

After a couple of visits to local community groups and a market stall in Redhill town (don’t miss us or our cakes at the next stall this Saturday 21 January!), we managed to drum up a lot of interest and signed up 22 Cooks and 4 Diners. With this user group in hand, we started to test how Casserole could work in a few different settings. A big thank you to everyone involved for your feedback – it’s exciting to see this project happening for real and to learn about all your experiences!

We’re beginning to get an idea of exactly what is most important for both our Diners and Cooks. For instance, the importance of a text service in communicating with all involved. In a really quick test we found that out of 5 texts sent out by Casserole 4 replied within 2 mins giving an answer (we later found out the the 5th persons phone had run out of battery!).

An example of the texts used in the Casserole pilot

It makes perfect sense that text services are becoming incredibly useful as more and more people use their mobile phones for important things. For instance, last month when I moved into my new flat, I didn’t have an internet connection set up yet but needed to register my meter readings to get my electricity set up. After registering with Southern Electric they sent me a text and all I had to do was text my meter reading to them. Now the more I text readings, the more accurate my bill will be. Plus if you’re anything like me, your phone is always close by making it easy to fire off a text quickly.

Of course, Casserole will need to use a range of different communications channels to reach a diverse range of participants, but there’s little doubt that using text messaging has already proved one really good way to get people interested and active in the service. This ties in with how banks, postal couriers and supermarkets are all using text services to complement their online and phone services.

Using the Southern Electric text service to save some money + time!

While text messaging has turned out to be a great way to get information and responses out quickly, the Casserole facebook page is proving to be brilliant in building the community around Casserole. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve had a number of people ‘like’ the page and what’s event better, people have started posting what they’ve been cooking for their Diners. This gives Cooks the chance to comment and share culinary tips, not to mention wets the appetite of others to get involved in the service as well!

Some of the lovely food being discussed on the facebook page

We now know something we didn’t a few weeks ago; text services could be really useful and sharing recipes would be mighty popular.

The range of other interesting info that’s emerged just from this initial small scale prototype alone are making it easier for us to understand and plan how the Casserole service should operate in the long run – from how people sign up and communicate to the cooking and sharing of meals.

To find out even more about Casserole and what we’ve discovered from this initial trial, come join us at the Casserole Lunch and Learn event at Warwick School, Saturday 28 January from 10am-1pm.  Want to stay up to date with Casserole? Then join our mailing list or drop Murtz a line at murtz [at] wearefuturegov [dot] com.