Identifying Strategies to Improve Membership at Pollards Hill Lunch Club After COVID-19 Lockdowns

Sponsor: Commonside Community Development Trust
Sponsor Liaison: Naomi Martin
Student Team:

Binh Diec
Patrick Leach
John Parenteau
Tiffany Saunders

Abstract: This project initially investigated the feasibility of implementing meal delivery for elderly lunch club members at Commonside Community Development Trust. Interviews with these members and staff, and discussions with five other lunch clubs in Merton suggested that an ongoing delivery service would not be feasible due to lack of interest and implementation costs of addressing what would likely be low demand. We pivoted to a new goal: identifying ways to increase lunch club membership as attendance had decreased following reopening after COVID-19 lockdowns. Additional interviews helped us identify needed changes to advertising and outreach and to recommend more engaging and welcoming activities to attract new members.

Commonside Final Booklet

Final Presentation

Supplemental Materials


Food insecurity is a problem that plagues many elderly people in the United Kingdom due to impaired mobility, limited access to shops, and poverty. The elderly face an increase in physical restraints as they age, where a majority of those over the age of 65 need assistance with simple daily tasks such as getting out of bed, grocery shopping, or cooking (AgeUK, 2019). The lack of affordable transportation causes difficulty acquiring essential supplies such as groceries or medications, where they are limited to local shops that are often more expensive than large retailers. Poverty among pensioners (i.e. older people who receive pensions) has risen from 1.6 million in 2013 to 2.1 million in 2019/20 (AgeUK, 2021a). Compounded together, these and other issues can make obtaining adequate food extremely difficult resulting in 1.3 million elderly people in the U.K. that suffer from malnutrition (Purdam et al., 2019). Poor nutrition can have many adverse effects, such as a weakened immune system, compromised muscle function, and heart failure (Bapen, 2018).

Many charities and local councils offer food services for the elderly to alleviate food insecurity in their communities. For example, Commonside Community Development Trust is a non-profit organization located in the London borough of Merton that provides many services and activities for both youth and the elderly. Most prominently, Commonside operates the Pollards Hill Lunch Club out of the New Horizons Centre, which provides a hot lunch to 30 to 40 elderly patrons on four days each week (Charity Commission, 2022). With the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, Commonside suspended its in-person lunch service and quickly shifted to delivering meals to lunch members using employee vehicles. This model is not sustainable beyond the pandemic, however, as many insurance policies normally complicating the use of employee vehicles were suspended during lockdown (Personal communication with Naomi Martin, Director of Commonside Community Trust, January 2022).

The original goal for our project was to assess the viability of Commonside Community Development Trust implementing a home meal delivery service for older people in the local community. After conducting initial interviews with the staff and volunteers and members of the Pollards Hill Lunch Club and five other local lunch clubs within the Merton area, it was determined that a meal delivery service was not desired by the community. A cost analysis for a meal delivery service using electric cargo bicycles was conducted and further supported that the implementation of this service would not be sustainable. Based on these findings, we shifted our focus: identify new strategies to increase attendance at the Pollards Hill Lunch Club following its reopening for in-person services after the COVID-19 lockdowns.