Knives and forks at the ready? Good because we want to introduce you to Casserole, a community project that connects people – one good shared meal at a time. The project is being developed and piloted with Future Surrey and has just won a contract with the TSB and Design Council on their joint Independence Matters programme.
It’s been a busy few months here at FutureGov and one of the many imagination capturing projects we are working on started out a few months ago as Community Kitchens. Supported by an initial development contract awarded by TSB and Design Council, we wanted to get out and understand more about the variety of things that might impact on our idea of getting people to cook extra meals for others in their community. With the help of the lovely folks at WRVS in Waverley and Elmbridge Borough Council, we spoke to a whole host of people from volunteers who’ve been helping deliver meals on wheels for more than 25 years,to interviewing random members of the public on the street to discover their views on participating in community services. We even got to catch up with Mrs Munday, who had been celebrating her 100th birthday that week, when we shadowed some of the brilliant meals on wheels volunteers in Surrey.
- WRVS preparing meals
Linking up with the Future Surrey project has been a fantastic boost for Casserole. Surrey Camp, held in September, brought together a whole host of different people in Surrey from county and borough councils, police, public and voluntary organisations, residents and service users in an unconference style of collaborating to change through design and technology. Having so many people in one place was incredibly useful and out of this big network the Social Isolation group began to form, sharing their insights into social isolation and adult social care and it became apparent that food could be a key factor in combatting this issue.
Why? Well we know that food is more than simply nutrition – just look at the endless cookery programmes on telly or remember the smell of your grandmother’s kitchen. Whether through international food markets, Christmas meals, summer BBQ parties, Come Dine With Me or community allotments, food is one of those rare social objects that is able to build universal connections across cultures and generations. So we thought, what better way than using food to tackle social isolation?
The idea behind Casserole is as simple as pie and offers you the choice of being a cook or a diner. A cook chooses times that they can prepare an extra portion of the meal that they are already making and what this meal might be and then Casserole matches them with a diner who lives nearby. Diners can then suggest recipes and give feedback on dishes they liked. Being a part of Casserole means everyone involved can share recipes, hints and tips to learn some cool stuff along the way. We want the mouth watering smell of a fresh lasagne or red hot curry to spread from street to street through our network of Casserole volunteers.
Casserole is all about looking at the small and unique contributions we can each make by cooking an extra meal along with our own and giving it to someone who might appreciate it. When it comes to cooking dinner, it doesn’t take much extra time to add one more portion to the mix, but the value of that extra portion to someone who lives on your street and struggles to get out and about amounts to much more than just a meal. As a Casserole volunteer, you might build relationships with people you would never otherwise encounter, and what’s more, their recipes, feedback and opinions could help you to finally cook that amazing Beef (or Veggie) Wellington you’ve always dreamed of.
Thanks to Surrey County Council, the TSB and Design Council and developments through Future Surrey, we are now focusing our first pilot of Casserole in Reigate & Banstead and, in particular, in the Redhill and Merstham areas and would love to hear from people and organisations who live in this area and are keen to be involved.
And finally, we are excited to announce that Surrey’s very own Carmela Tomkins, of Carmela’s Kitchen, will be supporting the project as one of our advisors. Carmela’s enthusiasm and passion for good food is something we love and aspire to have at the heart of the Casserole project.
If you are interested in finding out more about Casserole, sign up by visitingwww.casserolehq.org or get in touch by e-mailing me at Murtz [at] wearefuturegov [dot] com