Forming friendships over lunch at Disabled People’s Contact

31 August 2017

When food that’s been saved from waste arrives at a FareShare warehouse, it is only the beginning of the story. From there it goes to hundreds of local charities and community groups up and down the country, who transform it into meals that make a difference. One of these charities is Disabled People’s Contact (DPC), which is based in South East London.

Disabled People’s Contact (DPC) is a social contact day centre for disabled and vulnerable older people in Greenwich and Lewisham. It is open 48 weeks of the year and run by a small team of staff and volunteers.

Disabled People's Contact volunteers laying up the table for 24 older people

The centre’s mission is to support people in the community who are lonely, have a disability or physical or mental health conditions, by offering a safe place to visit, meet friends and enjoy a healthy balanced meal with like-minded people. Some of the challenges DPC’s members face include dementia, learning disabilities, physical disability, or mental health issues including depression, anxiety or schizophrenia.

The Day Centre has approximately 50 volunteers who work in the charity shop, at the day centre or at Monday night club. Many of the volunteers have mental health issues, are long-term unemployed, have overcome addictions or have learning disabilities.

Supporting older people with healthy meals

Volunteer preparing lunch for older people at Disabled People's Contact

The food the Centre get through their relationship with FareShare enables DPC to provide a varied and healthy diet for its members.

Day Centre Manager Erica Ross says “FareShare helps us improve the diets of people in the local community. We provide three of the recommended 5-a-day and are able to introduce seasonal variety into our meals. This is especially important for those who cannot cook for themselves due to disability, as well as for those who are experiencing poverty as some of our volunteers do.

Having this relationship with FareShare has in the first year reduced our food bill by 30%. As a charity, this has enabled us to put more money towards the cost of day trips, entertainment and activities. It is a bit like fundraising in reverse!”

Friendships formed over surplus food lunch club

The lunch club at Disabled People’s Contact is cosy, warm and welcoming. A painting of a tropical island spans one of the walls, while others are dotted with photos, colourful drawings by members and lots of books. The radio plays music as members chat, knit, read and colour-in while they wait for their lunch.

Angie has been coming to the lunch at Disabled People’s Contact for a year and a half. “When I first came I cried because I was shy and didn’t know anyone. I suffer with depression and didn’t want to talk to anyone. Now I’ve been coming for a year and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Before I came here I sat at home and didn’t want to go out. I feel happier now. I live on my own so it gets me out the flat. I’ve made best friends.

We come for the food and the company. The food’s nice; it’s my main meal of the day. I’ll be coming on Christmas Day too. There will be a Christmas dinner and a disco, lots of people and music.”

Maureen benefiting from Disabled People's Contact charity lunch club

A Day Centre full of animation

DPC run activities including chair exercises, DJ, arts and crafts and sing-a-long as well as tea dances, Christmas shopping trips and reminiscence sessions.

Maureen says “I’m severely disabled and am terminally ill. For two years I was just looking at the walls, so the doctor told me to come here. And I love it. It keeps me going.”

“Playing bingo is a lot of fun and anything I win, I spend in the charity shop. I then donate the items back to the shop so they can sell them again! I joke that I’ve got my boyfriend here – that’s him over there, George! When I win on bingo we say that’s another 20p put away for our wedding!”

We sent photographer James Darling along to capture the lunch and laughter and to see how food that would otherwise go to waste is being turned into a magnificent meal.

Older people and nutrition

We deliver food to hundreds of lunch clubs catering for older people across the UK helping them to provide healthy meals. This is particularly important because:

  • Nearly one million older people are at risk of malnutrition

Source: Malnutrition Task Force