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January 30, 2013

The hidden killer

Loneliness is a killer. Research suggests that it has the same impact on mortality as 15 cigarettes a day. It can affect anyone at any age but the elderly, for obvious reasons, are particularly vulnerable. With the exponential growth of our elderly population, this is a public health issue that is both well beyond the capacity of NHS to respond to alone and well suited for communities to develop local solutions. Many already are. We need to learn from the best of these.


The Food Train  (click here)

Food Train began in Dumfries in 1995 following a community survey of older people that found many of them struggling with their weekly grocery shopping; an idea was developed to ease this burden on older people.  A partnership of local shops and volunteers formed and Food Train began making deliveries of fresh groceries to older people in need with the help of local volunteers and shops.

Food Train operated very successfully in Dumfries town area between 1995 and 2002 but the founder members knew there was potential to expand the service across the region.  A four year funding package from the Scottish Executive ‘Better Neighbourhood Services Fund’ awarded in 2002 allowed staff to be recruited to develop Food Train and deliver grocery support across all Dumfries & Galloway.  By 2006 the grocery delivery service was fully operational across the region and the Board focused on the evidenced needs of the members and developed Food Train ‘EXTRA’ – an additional home support service.  More recently a third service has been added in Dumfries & Galloway, again responding to the needs of our elderly members with a befriending service helping those experiencing isolation and loneliness.

In 2008 we began researching, planning and preparing to expand Food Train into other parts of Scotland.  With support from the Scottish Government, Community Food & Health (Scotland), the Rank Foundation, West Lothian Council, Stirling Council and Dundee City Council we are now providing food access solutions to many more older people and clearly demonstrating our ability to transfer our successful model geographically.

From its early days of a few deliveries every week to a handful of customers, Food Train is now a thriving multi award winning charity covering Dumfries & Galloway, West Lothian, Stirling and Dundee City with a view to developing further and wider across Scotland to bring food access to all Scotland’s older folk. 

Mission, Vision and Values

The Food Train is a grocery shopping, befriending and household support service for older people assisting and enabling them to live at home independently for as long as they are able.


Our aim is to support older people to live independently at home.  Our preventative services address the difficulty older people face getting their weekly grocery shopping, doing jobs around the house and the growing isolation that comes with failing health.  We also aim to provide a wide range of supported volunteering opportunities for people of all age and ability.


We envisage our organisation as a ‘one stop shop’ for older people – by providing services or helping them access services to help them live independently at home for as long as they wish and are able.

Values –

we will respect our customers right to dignity, choice and independence in their later years

we will deliver our services with flexibility, openness and a ‘can-do’ approach

we welcome diversity in volunteering and will respect and value the contribution made by our volunteers

we will develop and value working relationships with a wide variety of community partners