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La Fiambrera (“Lunch Box”)

La Fiambrera (“Lunch Box”) is a food service that was developed to meet the food needs of elderly people living independently at home and employees of small companies (SMEs) based in isolated industrial estates which have no provision for food in the municipality of Rubí, near Barcelona in Spain[2].

During a multidisciplinary research project called HiCS researchers used a series of context–of-use tools[2] to explore the food requirements of the different groups.  Studies showed that although the elderly did have a certain level of mobility, they had difficulties ‘accessing’ food because of problems with preparing it, finances, food knowledge, weight-carrying ability, agility or sight problems[1]. Consequently, they often eat poorly, or have to rely on outside help, which was seen to be rapidly diminishing, as society becomes increasingly industrialised[1]. The research also identified that SME employees in isolated industrial estates often have difficulty accessing healthy lunch time food, because of the their geographical location, which resulted in them either eat unhealthy snacks from petrol stations or vending machines, spending time preparing their own lunchbox, relying on a female relation to prepare their lunch box, eating in expensive and time consuming restaurants, or do not eating at lunchtime at all[1]. 

Although both groups are very different in nature, they shared food provision needs.  The they both needed a regular, flexible food service, that could provide a balanced diet in a way which was easy and convenient to access and reasonably priced. The elderly group also needed a solution that would support independent living without having to rely on help from others.

[Images supplied by Cranfield University]

La Fiambrera aimed to meet these common needs whilst reacting to the groups’ differences. The way that La Fiambrera works is outlined above.  Eurest, the catering company involved in the scheme, enters the weeks’ menu into the smart ordering system on the internet. [0]. In Spain a typical lunchtime meal consists of three courses: a light vegetable, salad or pasta based dish; a meat or fish based dish; and a yoghurt, fruit or light pudding. SME employees order and pay for their lunch and any fresh food (vegetables, meats, cheeses, fish) that they require from the local Municipal Market, in advance through the smart ordering system [1]. SME users could also order through a feature called “La Fiambrera de Mamá” or “Mum’s Lunchbox”, which brought a surprise choice everyday.  Meanwhile, a social worker places an order through the Smart System for a number of set meals according to the medical needs of each customer enrolled in their scheme [2]. Meal orders go through to the Eurest Central Kitchen [3] and shopping orders go to a stallholder in the Municipal Market [4]. The fresh food is collected from the stalls and placed into a bag [5]. Then a van from Eurest’s central kitchen carrying prepared meals for both the Social Services and SME customers, goes to the Municipal Market. Here meals for people in the Social Ser vices scheme are left in a secure coolbox [6], and food shopping for SME employees, prepared by the stallholder, is collected [7]. The same van then travels to the SME [9] where the prepared Eurest meals and food shopping are delivered to a coolbox. [8]. The Social Service customers walk to the Municipal Market to pick up their meals from the secure coolbox [9]. The food can be stored for two or three days in these fridges. Meals are packaged in individual plastic trays, with a waterproof transparent seal, that can be put directly into a microwave or oven.

The customisation of the service for users is achieved via:
• the smart ordering system which creates a user profile of food preferences and/or dietary requirements
• the logistics which provide flexibility in access and eating times
• the menu choices – with three options for each course per day
• the choice of food portions - users can opt for a full menu of three dishes, or a half menu of one or two
• the shopping - users can specify products and the quantities they want of each
• SME employees also have the option of donating 50 cents per meal to help feed people in need of food in the local town.

La Fiambrera combines food solutions for two groups of people in one service; preparing, cooling and transporting the food together, but delivering it to different locations along one route. Information (menu posting, ordering and paying) is handled through an internet smart system. The logistics are combined to reduce costs, making the service economically viable.  La Fiambrera, has helped the partners involved to reach new markets which previously unprofitable. The concept of not only targeting more users with the same service but of adapting the service to suit different kinds of users can be seen as creating an economy of scope.

La Fiambrera has provided social services users several social benefits. The walk to the Municipal market provides a reason to get out of the house and visit the town centre. The coolbox becomes a ‘communication tool’ for people who have not been to collect their food. The social services can be notified and can investigate to see if there is a problem.

For the SME employees La Fiambrera offers a flexible system that allows people to eat when they want. It ensures a more balance d diet and offer s time savings and good quality food through a simple ordering system. It also provides a food shopping service for those who have difficulty finding time to buy fresh goods. The over riding benefit is that they now have access to a good quality food service, where previously one did not exist at all[1].

[1] Jegou, F. and P. Joore, eds. Food delivery solutions: Cases of solution oriented partnership. 1st ed. 2004, Cranfield University: Cranfield. 125.
[2] Manzini, E., L. Collins, and E. Evans, eds. Solution oriented partnership: How to design industrialised sustainable soloutions. 1st ed. 2004, Cranfield University: Cranfield. 171