The initiative – which is funded by the Scottish Government and the Rank Foundation – aims to help tackle malnutrition in older frail people by encouraging people to cook and share an extra portion of their home-cooked food.
The pilot for the project is taking place in Dundee but will soon be rolled out across the six local authority areas that the Food Train operates in, including Dumfries and Galloway, where the charity is headquartered.
Ms McAlpine said:
“Meal Makers is one of the best examples of a preventative care initiative that I have encountered in my time as an MSP.
“The essential point of meal makers is that the cook makes an extra portion of what they would normally cook for dinner and delivers it to the diner’s home nearby. The project connects people in the same neighbourhood—it strengthens communities as well as helping individuals.
“I have always been a great admirer of the Food Train, and I am far from alone in that respect. The charity, which began in Dumfries and Galloway but has now been rolled out across Scotland, was founded on the very simple principle that many older people find it hard to shop, particularly if the local butcher, baker and greengrocer have closed and the nearest supermarket is accessible only by car.
“We could say that the project facilitates a natural human instinct, which is neighbourliness.
“When I was growing up, people looked out for and shopped for elderly housebound neighbours.
“However, because of social mobility and perhaps a modern reticence, we often do not know our neighbours and we hesitate to offer help lest it is rejected. Meal makers overcomes that difficulty by using social media. Members can check out the project’s site, www.mealmakers.org.uk, or its very popular Facebook page.
The SNP MSP also highlighted how the project is helping to tackle the very serious problem of malnutrition and ill health in older people:
“Illness, frailty and social isolation can cause malnutrition in some cases.
“For a number of years, elderly people admitted to hospital across the United Kingdom have been screened for signs of malnutrition. One pan-UK research project that covered the four years to 2011 found that, on average, 29 per cent of elderly people admitted to hospital were malnourished. The figure varied by country: England had the highest level of malnourishment at 30 per cent, and Scotland had the lowest level at 24 per cent.”