Changing the conversation about health

Beyond Pills Campaign: Could you Share a Meal this winter to help others?

With inflation at its highest level in the last 40 years, interest rates looking set to continue to rise until the summer at least and energy prices significantly higher than in recent years, the UK is bracing for a stark winter, with many people facing hardship and food poverty.

Community initiatives – including the Share a Meal scheme -are a great way of helping those in need this winter (Picture: Share a Meal)

With food banks stretched, there are other ways you can get involved with helping others, or seek help yourself. Featured in a recent Sunday Express article, the Share a Meal scheme, which operates in neighbourhoods in the South West, was co-founded by Sarah Stacey, who is also one of the leading voices behind our Beyond Pills Campaign.

The successful food sharing concept began in the pandemic and has earned the support of famous faces including Prue Leith and the Hairy Bikers, with celebrity chefs contributing easy-to-make recipes.

Stacey told the Sunday newspaper: “This year our winter blues may have a different tinge with rising mental health problems, the cost of living crisis, food and fuel poverty as well as the post pandemic slump.

A recent article in the Sunday Express featured the Share a Meal initiative

“Many people are feeling low but we can do simple things to make people feel better. Communities need to look after each other and be neighbourly. Giving makes us feel happier. You don’t have to given expensive gifts. Little gestures can have a huge impact.”

The Share a Meal website encourages people to cook for others with easy one-pot recipes, all painstakingly tested by Sarah herself.

She told the Sunday Express: “There are plenty of ideas for one pot meals that can be shared, or if someone doesn’t want to cook a whole meal they could instead bake a cake.

“If you don’t want to cook you can simply invite your neighbour in for a cup of tea and piece of cake. Many are suffering from post pandemic and winter blues.”


Our Chair, Dr Michael Dixon, praised initiatives like Share a Meal, which are borne out of community goodwill.

He said: “The benefits of healthy eating and social interaction have a very strong evidence base and this wonderful initiative achieves both.

“The health service – and even our planet – will not survive unless we can restore this ethos of mutual responsibility and community spirit.”

To find out how you can get involved in setting up your own Share a Meal initiative, visit:


‘This soup is the equivalent of a nourishing hug in a bowl – wholesome and delicious,’ says cook Darina Allen, and is taken from her latest book, One Pots Feeds All, published by Kyle Books

Serves 8-10


1 x 750g ham hock

1 bay leaf

1 medium onion, halved

1 medium carrot, cut in 2

2.5 litres water or light chicken stock

500g yellow split peas

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

4 celery stalks, chopped into 1cm dice

4 medium carrots, chopped into 1cm dice

2 leeks, thinly sliced, white/pale green parts only

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tsp thyme leaves

1 x 400g chopped tinned tomatoes

freshly ground black pepper

good pinch of sugar

freshly chopped parsley


1. Place the ham hock, bay leaf, halved onion and carrot pieces into a saucepan, cover with the water or light chicken stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour. 

2. Add the split peas. Simmer for a further 1½ hours, until the meat falls off the bone and the split peas are tender.

3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan; add the onions, celery, carrots, leeks, garlic and thyme leaves. Cover and sweat for 10-12 minutes on a gentle heat. 

4. Add the chopped tomatoes and juice, freshly ground black pepper and sugar (it may not need salt) and continue to cook for a further 10 minutes.

5. When the ham hock and split peas are cooked, remove from the cooking liquid discarding the bay leaf, onion and carrot. 

6. Add the split peas and cooking liquid to the vegetables and tomato mixture. 

7. Remove the skin from the ham hock and shred the meat into bite-size pieces. Add it to the soup. Simmer for 10 more minutes. 

8. Taste and add salt if necessary. Scatter lots of chopped parsley over the top and serve. 

Tip Brilliant to have portions in the freezer too.

© Darina Allen, Ballymaloe Cookery School