By Diana Vogel. Diana is the Community Network Developer at Eden Project Communities for the Midlands and the East of England, enabling and inspiring community minded people to make a difference in their area.
Here at the Big Lunch we know of the power of sharing a meal and the connections that can be made by cooking and eating together. But for many older people, especially in our rural communities, cooking a fresh meal and sharing it with someone is something which may no longer happen. Often, the reality looks more like snacks with their main companion – which, according to research from Age UK, is the TV for over two fifths of older people in the UK.
Combatting this form of social isolation is what matters for Community Compass CIC, a community interest company called into life by Simone and Yvonne – two friends from Cheshire. With years of experience on how to engage with and encourage older people to connect, Simone and Yvonne were even more inspired to tackle isolation after Simone attended an Eden Community Camp. Camp provided her with the inspiration to develop new ideas around how to enable older people to stay social in their community, with a focus on getting healthy home cooked meals back onto their tables.
Hearing about the Big Lunch, and knowing from their own experience that making friends is easier when there’s a good brew and some cake involved, Simone and Yvonne came up with Share Club. Share Club is all about ‘matching up’ people – ideally an older person who struggles with social isolation, with a local person – and the couple then get-together once a week to enjoy a freshly cooked meal. Hearing about the vast amount of food which is wasted across the UK, Simone was quick to get creative and Share Clubs were signed up to Fair Share, enabling Simone and Yvonne to receive surplus food for the project.
Today is Silver Sunday: the national day to celebrate all that older people contribute to our communities, and wider society. So we are delighted that, having received funding from Brightlife Cheshire, Community Compass will today be launching the first Share Club in Winsford, Cheshire. As well as the weekly meals, Share Club will meet as a bigger group once a month allowing the Share Clubbers to build on the connections they have made. Fresh produce will also be shared out in Fair Share goodie bags, providing older people with food they may not otherwise have easy access to.
Simone hopes Share Clubs will go beyond simply providing food to older people, through facilitating lasting intergenerational connections between the Share Clubbers. Having spoken to her, I’m sure that Community Compass will succeed in making Share Clubs not just a tool to fight loneliness in older age, but also one which promotes a broader approach to connecting people within a community. Our ability to connect over food is no secret, but using meals to meet the social as well as nutritional needs of older people is a pretty inspired initiative.