Making a meal of it


Northumbrian Water is encouraging older people to ‘pull the plug’ on dodgy diets as it helps to launch a national healthy eating trial.

Age UK County Durham’s initiative, ‘Come Dine With Us’, which is being supported by Northumbrian Water, aims to improve older peoples′ ability to access, cook and enjoy healthy food so that they can cope with life stage changes such as retirement, bereavement or ill health.

The scheme is one of 37 different projects being funded by the Big Lottery Fund through its pioneering ‘Silver Dreams Fund’.

‘Come Dine With Us’, which is the only project focussing on nutrition for older people, will involve trialling ‘non-traditional’ lunch clubs, encouraging older people to take turns to cook for each other in their own homes, helping older people do their shopping and developing an accredited healthy eating course.

It is being piloted in Durham City, Stanley, Shildon and Bishop Auckland for 18 months. The Big Lottery will then asses and review each scheme and allocate five projects a further one million pounds.

The lunch clubs are different to the traditional ones. Instead of being held in church halls and being managed by volunteers, they will be hosted by businesses, schools, museums, colleges and pubs.

Northumbrian Water will be the first large business to take part in the project by serving up a ‘Come Dine With Us’ lunch on Monday December 3 2012 at their head office, Boldon House, Wheatlands Way, Durham, DH1 5FA, at 12.15pm. Reporters and photographers are invited to join us for lunch. Images will be available after the event.

The water company’s Chief Executive, Heidi Mottram, will welcome forty older people from Newton Hall and Durham City to the company’s staff restaurant, before they tuck into a hearty meal of lentil and vegetable soup, mince and dumplings served with vegetables and a homemade apple crumble.

ITV Tyne Tees presenter, Pam Royle, who is a passionate supporter of the vital work of Age UK, will join diners in celebrating the first of many lunches to be hosted by Northumbrian Water. The water company has committed to host one lunch club every month until May 2014.

Police officers from Operation Bombay, a regional initiative tackling distraction burglary, will also be on hand at the launch luncheon to give advice on how people can protect themselves and their homes and property from callous criminals.

Harriet Gibbon, Age UK County Durham Chief Executive, said: "We have spoken to a large number of elderly people and they are concerned about their lack of cooking skills, having to eat alone most of the time and lack of motivation to cook for one.

"We would like to thank Northumbrian Water and everyone else who is supporting ‘Come Dine With Us’. They will play a big part in helping to ensure older people feel more socially included, have increased knowledge of how healthy food can maintain and improve their physical and emotional well-being, give them the opportunity to learn new skills and most importantly, maintain their independence."

Northumbrian Water’s Chief Executive, Heidi Mottram, said: "Northumbrian Water provides the healthiest drink on tap and research clearly shows that drinking the appropriate amount of water every day as well as maintaining a balanced diet can have significant health benefits.

"We think ’Come Dine With Us’ is a wonderful initiative and we are proud to be helping to lead the way nationally. The scheme will not only encourage the older generation to find out more about nutrition, learn new cooking skills and share recipes with new friends, it will also improve the quality of older peoples’ lives, which is very important."

County Durham organisations who have signed up to support ‘Come Dine With Us’ also include Queens Head public house in Durham, libraries in Bishop Auckland, Shildon Town Council, Shildon Community Safety Group, Bishop Auckland College, Platform 7 Café (in the National Railway Museum, Shildon) and local schools in Stanley.

Northumbrian Water is inviting older people to ‘Come Dine with Us’ on the third Friday of every month, starting on Friday January 18 2013 at 1.00pm. It will cost £3.70 for a hot main course and dessert followed by freshly brewed tea or coffee.

It would be helpful if people could book a place in advance so that enough meals are available. To book a place or for further information please contact Barbara Webb on 0191 3839750 or

Reporters and photographers interested in finding out more about the event on Monday 3 December should contact Cara Charlton on 0191 301 6720.

For further information about ‘Come Dine With Us’ contact Harriet Gibbon, Chief Executive Age UK County Durham, on 0191 374 6361 (via her PA Julie Nicholls) or email

The Big Lottery Fund (BIG), the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery. BIG is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since June 2004 BIG has awarded over £4.4bn.

Age UK County Durham is the principal voluntary organisation working to make later life a fulfilling and enjoyable experience for all older people in County Durham. We have nearly 40 years experience of supporting local older people by influencing policies and practices that affect their lives, challenging views and improving understanding of the ageing process, developing and providing services. Age UK County Durham is an independent local charity and a brand partner of Age UK.

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