Launched in May 2012, Independence Matters was a Design Challenge run in partnership with Innovate UK (formerly Technology Strategy Board) to develop services that promote independence in later life. One of seven inspiring start-ups funded through the challenge, League of Meals brought older adults together to learn to cook better and waste less.

The problem

An estimated 1 million older adults in the UK are malnourished, which leads to longer stays in hospitals, social isolation, depression and illness. It is estimated that malnourishment costs society over £7.3 billion a year. Looking at two key aspects of independence in later life – eating well and social connectedness – League of Meals focused on the power of cooking and sharing meals to facilitate social interactions and engage people of all ages.

The solution

Developed by Sidekick Studios, League of Meals aimed to help people cook better and save money by sharing older adults’ knowledge and tips about home cooking in collaborative cooking sessions. The content was then made available to the wider public through digital channels.

The service also addressed the issue of food waste, adding the voice of older adults to the sustainable food movement. League of Meals provided an opportunity to showcase what we all can learn from this generation. The collaborative cooking sessions revolved around ingredients that would otherwise go to waste; the cooks were challenged to use their knowledge and intuition to come up with dishes based on what was available.

The results

Following the design challenge, League of Meals changed business models. Its last iteration combined a cooking course with a food subscription. Users learned about new flavours and cuisines by ordering weekly 'cook boxes' containing fresh fruit and veg, dry ingredients, herbs, spices and condiments. The box came with a cooking course, and digital tools connected the community of offline.

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