Banquet & Meal Share

...combating isolation of the elderly

'Banquet & Meal Share' is to do something very special for the elderly living in Filwood, South Bristol.   It’s one of the most highly deprived areas in England and life’s been tough for years. Local grannies and grandads have lived through the 1930s Great Depression and World War II and saw youths rioting in the streets during the 1990s when the local tobacco factory shut down leaving local workers without jobs to go to either then, or now.   


The Matthew Tree Project (TMTP) has run a Food Plus Centre at Inns Court since 2012 feeding families unable to afford food and supplying a range of wellbeing services.  These include money management, home cooking and nutrition sessions and crisis grants for essential household equipment plus free clothing.  We also offer a friendly face-to-face mentoring service to those in distress, and screen malnourished people, supplying free nutritious food to restore them to health. It’s estimated there are 3.2 million malnourished people in the UK of which 1,300,000 are aged over 65.  There are lots of reasons for this; low incomes, loss of personal mobility, fading appetites due to illness, difficulty with chewing and swallowing food, feeling lonely and depressed following the loss of a loved one, but the main underlying cause for many is isolation.   


Some elderly people feel there’s nothing to look forward to any more, but our answer is TMTP ‘Meal Club and Meal Share Service’.  Every week we will bring 32 elderly neighbours to a local venue for Meal Club days. Venues used range from modern, accessible community centres to residential home common rooms. After everyone has enjoyed a nutritious two course lunch, our community links coordinator, will run activities; sing-a-longs, tea dances, cards, bingo or who knows, speed dating! if requested. Our secret ingredient is our team of eight trained volunteer Care Companions available to help people throughout the day from door to door.  And the next day our Care Companions will take a pre-prepared ‘Meal Share’ for two to eight elderly house-bound residents, staying to eat with them and after to read aloud, play music and games or just have a good natter. It will be the same friendly face arriving at the door each week.


We charge each participant £3 a week (if they can afford it) as we also need to buy in fresh meat, fish and dairy produce and fruit and vegetables to supplement weekly supplies of store cupboard food kindly donated by Aldi and Asda to the project.


The service will be open to all elderly local residents, and our hope is that participants will come to lead happier and more fulfilled lives because there will be something to look forward to each week; getting out of the house to enjoy themselves; sharing laughter, chatting, dancing, making new friends, meeting old friends, singing, and going home feeling well fed after a good lunch.  We hope our elderly friends will feel a little less lonely and isolated in their twilight years and, with our Wellbeing Services on hand, we can also provide help with managing household bills, apply for crisis grants, and malnutrition screening and dietary advice for those underweight. The nutritious food will help build up malnourished folks strength, and we will promote participation onto our cookery and nutrition courses.

Funded by St Monica Trust 
A St Monica Trust grant of £5,000 has enabled us to embark upon this program of work. The need has been identified by the fact that very few people in the 60+ age range access TMTP Food Plus services and yet we also know a very high percentage of new admissions to care homes suffer from malnutrition (48%).

This is clearly a very vulnerable group of people who are slipping through the cracks of existing services and our objective is to develop this service, in partnership with others, to plug these gaps in a dignified and uplifting way enhancing the health and quality of life of those effected by this issue.