Meal Makers is a local neighbourhood food-sharing project that connects people who love cooking, and who are happy to share an extra portion of home cooked food, with an older neighbour who would really appreciate a freshly prepared meal and a friendly chat.
By turning an everyday activity into a volunteering opportunity, Meal Makers strengthens connections within communities and provides a flexible way for people to volunteer their time and skills locally in a way which suits them.
Meal Makers is a subsidiary of the award winning Scottish Charity Food Train. Food Train is an innovative volunteer led grocery shopping delivery service which brings vital fresh food to vulnerable older people in need. Since launching in 1995, Food Train has gone from strength to strength over the years and has expanded into 9 regions in Scotland and now supports over 1,600 older people with the tremendous help of over 600 volunteers.
With the proportion of older people steadily increasing, Food Train has been instrumental in developing vital services beyond the core grocery delivery service to meet the needs brought about by this shift in communities. Food Train introduced Food Train ‘EXTRA’, which provides regular household and home safety support which operates in Dumfries & Galloway and West Lothian. In order to combat social isolation and loneliness amongst older adults Food Train introduced a befriending service providing telephone contacts, home visiting, trips out and social clubs for local older people. Food Train friends operates in the Food Train areas Dumfries & Galloway and Dundee. Having recognised that mobility issues can be restrictive beyond grocery shopping Food Train have also set up an Outreach Library Service in West Lothian whereby customers can have library books dropped off and returned to their house at no cost.
Meal Makers is another example of a project that was initiated by Food Train in response to an unmet need experienced by older adults. Every year Food Train conducts an annual survey to assess the levels of satisfaction with our services, and to identify what services older adults feel are lacking or inaccessible. An issue that was continually being highlighted by our members was issues surrounding cooking and a lack of access to freshly prepared meals. Our customers often tell us that they find cooking more difficult as they get older and become more reliant on prepared meals. Furthermore a number of our customers who live alone, who may well have the ability to cook freshly prepared food, express a lack of motivation around cooking due to the fact that they are only cooking for themselves. As well as this feedback from our customers, Food Train volunteers would also express concerns about certain customers not eating properly.
Cooking for older adults is a task typically undertaken by carers. However, Food Train is not a regulated Care Provider and were more in interested in taking a community based approach to this unmet need. Upon researching and investigating a number of different models Food Train settled on neighbourhood cooking concept that would use an online platform whereby volunteers could be matched with an older neighbour living in their local area with whom they could share an extra portion of their home cooked food.
Food Train attracted funding from the Scottish Government and Rank Foundation to bring Meal Makers to life, and the project was officially launched in Dundee as a pilot in August 2014. It very quickly proved to be a huge success and has quickly expanded into Glasgow in January 2015, Perth and Kinross in November 2015, Renfrewshire in January 2016, Edinburgh in March 2015, Stirling in December 2016, West Lothian in January 2017, Scottish Borders in March 2017, North Ayrshire in August 2017, Fife in January 2018 and Dumfries and Galloway in March 2018, clearly demonstrating our ability to successfully transfer the model geographically. We will continue to roll Meal Makers out across Scotland.
Meal makers is a local neighbourhood food-sharing project that uses an online platform to connect volunteers of any age who have a passion for cooking and want to be active in their communities (Cooks), with older neighbours over the age of 55 (Diners) who would appreciate a home cooked meal.
Our aim is to support older people to live independently at home by helping to reduce food poverty and malnutrition, improve diets and combat social isolation by breaking down the barriers that lead to loneliness. We are also hoping that the project will help to strengthen connections within communities and provide a flexible way for people to volunteer their time and skills locally in a way which suits them.
We envisage our project as an innovative service whereby older adults are given access to freshly prepared nutritious cooking. They become better connected within their communities and can enjoy the benefit of living in digital society.