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The Food Train: supporting older people to eat healthily at home


The Food Train supports members of the community to live more independently through being able to stay in control of their lives and to enjoy a healthy diet. This helps to prevent malnutrition – reducing the likelihood of hospital admissions, and allows older people to remain in the comfort of their own homes within their community – greatly improving their quality of life.

The Food Train also provides unobtrusive advice for individuals about referral agencies in case individuals begin to have additional problems – helping individuals to manage their own conditions more effectively.

Community Food & Health (Scotland) commissioned an evaluation of The Food Train in 2008 to shed some light on its overall social benefits. This involved a customer survey on the perceived benefits of the services. The five key outcomes of The Food Train included:

  • Independence 76%
  • Health 50%
  • Tackling Isolation 35%
  • Wellbeing 27%
  • Safety 21%

The evaluation concluded that:

‘The Food Train provides a well targeted, effective and flexible service that is highly acceptable to customers, with low cost inputs primarily as a result of its volunteer workforce. It generates high value outcomes for customers and fulfils a critical role in supporting them in their desire to retain their independence and to remain in the comfort of their own homes and within their own communities. Its economic value in delaying the onset of higher-cost packages of care is highly significant, and is in line with current UK and Scottish Government policies on meeting the challenge of an ageing population which is living longer though unhealthier lives.’

The Food Train’s work also has a beneficial impact on volunteers taking part. Volunteers have improved their mental and physical well-being because the project involves:

  • working and doing things outside;
  • increased social contact;
  • getting a feel good factor from helping others;
  • enabling volunteers to build upon their skills, increasing their employability.

Social cohesion is bolstered by creating contacts amongst volunteers and customers, amongst volunteers, and between local enterprises and the community.  This process also creates a culture of active citizenship. The Food Train has a positive economic impact for local shops, supermarkets and garages, enabling them to retain and attract new customers.

The Food Train also contributes to the Dumfries & Galloway’s Local Outcomes Framework, including:

  • Improving employment and business opportunities (1.1)
  • Maximising household income (1.4)
  • Caring for vulnerable people (2.2)
  • Reducing inequalities in health (2.4)
  • Leading healthier lifestyles (2.5)
  • Improving community safety (3.1)
  • Supporting communities (3.2)
  • Encouraging people to be responsible citizens (4.4).

The quality of the work that The Food Train provides has resulted in many awards such as:

  • Queens Golden Jubilee Award (2004)
  • Guardian Society Award (2004)
  • Best Practice in Volunteering (2005)
  • Age Concern Scotland Group of the Year (2005)
  • UK Charity Awards – Highly Commended (2007)
  • Healthy Working Lives (Bronze 2008 and Silver 2009)
  • The Herald Society Awards – Commended (2008)

About this case study
Main Contact

Michelle McCrindle

Chief Executive

Tel: (00 44) (0) 1387 270800

Gaynor Grant

National Development Officer



(00 44) (0) 7545 925513

Frankie Hine-Hughes wrote this case study for Governance International on 22 March 2012.

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