Stratford-upon-Avon College’s Friendship Lunch Club is about to get up and running for a second year this January, aiming to tackle the growing issue of loneliness and isolation in the community.

Held on-campus at the College’s Brazz Restaurant, Friendship Lunch Club will meet on Thursdays at 12pm starting 9th January.

The Professional Catering and Hospitality students will seat guests at communal tables so diners can sit together for lunch and form new friendships. Everyone is welcome whether you’re single or if you’re part of a couple or group. Plus, the set menu is available for an exceptional price – £5.50 gets you two courses served with tea or coffee.

Shelley McGonigle, Assistant Head of Department for Vocational Studies at the College, is passionate about addressing loneliness in the community, especially among the elderly. Recent investigation indicates that 1.9 million older people in the UK often feel ignored or invisible, and 3.6 million older people live alone, more than 2 million of whom are aged over 75.

Shelley hopes that the initiative will help local residents who feel isolated and alone to feel part of their neighbourhood and form lasting relationships. She commented: “It is generally accepted that a lack of companionship can have a very negative affect on mental and physical health, and that tackling this issue improves people’s well-being and quality of life. That is why we believe in the importance of our Friendship Lunch Club – it relieves loneliness by bringing people together in a friendly, relaxed setting.”

The impetus for the project, however, came from Shelley’s Catering students who were themselves eager to combat social isolation and promote positive mental health.

Explaining the students’ passion for Friendship Lunch Club, Shelley continued, “The students are to be commended for their commitment to the community and to helping the elderly in particular feel a sense of belonging. They are a credit to the College and I am immensely proud of them.”

From humble beginnings – Friendship Lunch Club’s launch event in November 2018 saw eight guests welcomed onto campus – the event went from strength to strength throughout the year. The last lunchtime date, held in May 2019, was sold out, and 65 guests, including the local press, attended for a Fish ‘n’ Chip Friday.

If residents know of anyone who they feel is struggling or spends time alone, they can pass on contact details to the Academy Restaurant and the Catering team will make contact and send an invitation to a future Friendship Club date.

To make a booking, please contact the College on 01789 266245 or at hello@stratford.ac.uk.

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