DOZENS of older people tucked into a hearty meal of mince and dumplings in a staff canteen at the launch of a new lunch club.

About 40 people from the Durham City were invited into Northumbrian Water’s headquarters at Pity Me for the first meal of a monthly lunch club.

Chief executive Heidi Mottram and Tyne Tees presenter Pam Royle joined diners yesterday (Monday, December 3) at the lunch of Age UK County Durham’s new "Come Dine With Us" project.

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Organisers of the Lottery-funded scheme hope to set up ‘non-traditional’ lunch clubs in venues other than the usual church halls, such as businesses, schools, museums, colleges and pubs, with pilot projects running in Durham City, Stanley, Shildon and Bishop Auckland for the next 18 months.

Among those to have signed up so far include the Queens Head pub in Durham, Bishop Auckland College and the Platform Seven Café in the National Railway Museum, Shildon.

Northumbrian Water will hold a lunch club in its staff restaurant on the third Friday of the month, starting in January and running until May 2014, when diners can enjoy a hot main meal and dessert as well as tea of coffee for £3.70.

Visitors to the company yesterday enjoyed lentil and vegetable soup, mince and dumplings served with vegetables and a homemade apple crumble.

Harriet Gibbon, Age UK County Durham Chief Executive, said: "We have spoken to a large number of elderly people and they are concerned about their lack of cooking skills, having to eat alone most of the time and lack of motivation to cook for one".