How to… create a neighbourhood food sharing scheme

CasseroledeliverysmallCasserole Club helps people share extra portions of home-cooked food with others in their area who might not be able to cook for themselves. Ben Matthews of FutureGov explains the idea and shares some of its learnings so far

Casserole Club is like a local, community-led takeaway, where members serve up meals to their neighbours. It gets more people cooking fresh food while strengthening local neighbourhood relationships with every bite.

It’s supported by a website – – that allows you to sign up as someone who likes to cook, and are up for sharing an extra plate of home cooked food (cooks), and to search for neighbours who could really benefit from a home cooked hot meal (diners). For those who aren’t on the internet, Casserole Club helps those who are offline to order meals, connect and pair up with local people.

Casserole was developed as an idea by FutureGov, a company that makes public services better and cheaper through elegantly designed digital products. Casserole was initially developed with the support of Surrey County Council and Reigate and Banstead Borough Council.

Over a six month period at the beginning of 2012, the basic Casserole concept was piloted in the Reigate and Banstead area. The Casserole Club team tested a variety of approaches to engage both cooks and diners in the area, undertaking engagement events that included dropping muffins on people’s doorstep to setting up and running market stalls giving away free lunch.

At the end of a successful six month pilot, the project had engaged around 100 participants in the Reigate and Banstead area. Twenty people were regularly sharing food and over 150 meals were shared. In total, there were 798 individuals signed up on the Casserole site across the UK.

While not a numbers game, we have been testing out lots of different ways of growing Casserole Club, here are some of our lessons learned:

1. Work on the pyramid of engagement

We created a pyramid of engagement for Casserole cooks to see their level of engagement developed over the course of a rollout. The more engaged a cook is, the more likely they are to spread the word and tell other people about Casserole Club, resulting in more signups.

There are multiple stages of engagement for a potential cook. The role of the website and other digital communications is to support and inspire the potential cook at every stage, motivating them to increase their engagement.

Our mantra for getting people more engaged is: make it quick, make it easy, make it inspiring.

2. A picture paints a thousand words

Encouraging cooks and diners to give us their picture for use on social media channels and develop their personal profiles on the site really helps to encourage new signups and tell the Casserole story. Something as simple as putting real people’s faces on the site makes a big difference to signups.

3. Media coverage drives signups

Of these activities, we have found that our coverage in local and national press is by far the main way that we attract new Cooks to the project. So over the last 6 months, we’ve worked hard to increase our coverage in national, local and online media. Casserole has had 22 pieces of coverage in the last 6 months, with major publications including:

  1. Mumsnet – 4,000,000 readers
  2. Morrisons Magazine – 1,300,000 readers
  3. London Evening Standard – 700,000 readers
  4. Waitrose Kitchen – 350,000 readers
  5. Time Out – 300,000 readers

This gives an estimated media reach for Casserole Club of at least 6,650,000 in the past 6 months.

4. Social media drives lots of referrals

Cooks are very engaged on Facebook and Twitter and these tools are vital for increasing the number of cook signups. The largest amount of referrals to the Casserole site are from Facebook, Twitter and Twitter has also been extremely useful for reaching out to  local and national organisations who have helped us to rollout the project at a local level.

5. Flyering works but is hard to measure

Targeted flyering in hotspot areas has also been a good way of increasing our presence in an area visibly and does help to increase sign-up of cooks. Unfortunately, we have not been able to accurately measure the correlation as we have not yet had the opportunity to create unique URLs to the site from these marketing materials, but will be addressing this.

6. Spreading the word in the real world

Local events have also been a really good way of being able to reach out to new cooks and give them an opportunity to talk to us about their anxieties and motivations for getting involved. These more intimate events have also proved successful in helping to convert more signups and, in particular, more conversions from individuals signing up through to progressing with the DBS check.

Casserole Club’s Key Lessons

The key learning points from the Casserole Club  pilot included:

  • Removing barriers and keeping things simple yields more users and more sign-ups
  • There is a demand for the service as shown by the number of meals shared
  • Diners don’t sign up through the website, but through personal interaction
  • Cooks are easier to engage than diners, both online and offline
  • Diners tend to be older (80% are aged 80 or over) and prefer to communicate by phone and text
  • Organisations and partnerships, such as Age UK, are key to finding diners
  • 70% of diners represent a latent demand (aren’t using meals on wheels)
  • People prefer to be in a consistent paired up relationship
  • 0.8 miles is the average distance travelled by cooks

Overall, we’re learning that customer service is critical for running a service like Casserole Club. When working with vulnerable people like Casserole does, you need to balance a flexible safeguarding approach with the fact that people want to volunteer on an ad-hoc basis and around their other commitments.


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paulette hogan
paulette hogan
8 years ago

how do i join please

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