The Meet and Eat project was funded as part of Brightlife’s ‘Bright Ideas’ strand. This fund encouraged local groups, voluntary organisations and businesses to come forward with ideas to reduce isolation and loneliness for older people within areas or communities of interest.
Meet and Eat was delivered by Cheshire Agricultural Chaplaincy, a local provider of advice and pastoral support for farmers, with an award of £17,076.
Vulnerable participants may require mental health support even after improving their social connections, to deal with the long-term effects of loneliness and social isolation.
Development and delivery
The aim of the Meet and Eat project was to reduce loneliness and social isolation and promote social connectedness among farmers, by encouraging their participation in local breakfast and lunch clubs.
Delivery took place across a number of venues within the region, with some events including additional activities and others simply providing a meal and opportunities to chat and socialise.
The project team found that the degree of engagement by the host venue was crucial to the success of the events, with those venues where the staff were most involved and welcoming proving far more successful than those where there was no contact from venue staff.
The delivery team reported that several participants requested additional support to ‘air the way they had been feeling’ before becoming involved in the Meet and Eat project. In these cases, participants were offered direct support by the Chaplaincy Team and/or signposted to specialist mental health services.
The delivery team encountered significant challenges with the formal evaluation, suggesting that the CMF questionnaire was too long and invasive, and that the requirement for its ongoing administration hampered their relationship-building efforts with participants.
Impact and legacy
Delivery of the project has continued in all but one of the venues beyond the end of the Brightlife funding period, with additional venues being established in both Cheshire West and Cheshire East, facilitated by the introduction of a small, voluntary per-participant fee.
Cheshire Agricultural Chaplaincy reported that their delivery of the project had enabled them to reach many more people in the rural community, including the families of participants.
Social isolation within the farming community
Support group tackles shocking impact of social isolation on Cheshire farmers