Exeter welcomes Next Meal

Exeter Cathedral hosted a Next Meal launch recently. Here’s what Canon Becky Totterdell, St Peter Canon, had to say…

I guess most of us reading this won’t worry too much about where we will find our next meal. But for many people in our society it is a very real anxiety, as we know from the massive use of food banks both locally and around the country.

So on 28th June- Exeter Cathedral was delighted to host the launch of ‘Next Meal’ – an online guide in the making, signposting people to where they can find free food in their own locality, wherever they are in the UK or Europe.

Already rolled out in many parts of the country, this was Exeter’s chance to welcome and publicise Next Meal’s coverage of Devon and the South West.

GPS guidance to local free food

Brainchild of Martin Stone, Next Meal is a website which directs homeless people to nearby soup kitchens using GPS data. Martin, who lectures in Housing and Economics, has been manager of a soup kitchen in Muswell Hill, London, for over ten years, and it was there that he came up with the idea, when he realised that most of the homeless people he met had a smartphone.

Help for well-wishers too

As members of the public, we don’t want to pass by those who ask for our help, but we are usually (and rightly) uncomfortable giving money to homeless people not knowing how it might be used. So the next time you come across someone on the streets who asks you for money, what you can give them instead, by looking up nextmeal.co.uk on your own phone, is information about locations of the nearest centres that provide food, and on which days of the week and times of day.

For those who do not have smartphones, the Next Meal organisation also provides small cards with the website details on, which churches can order for their members to carry around, ready to give to someone they see in need. The Cathedral now has a stock of them on the Chaplains’ and Stewards’ desk and you are welcome to take a handful to give to those who might benefit. Next Meal kindly donated two mobile phone chargers to the Wednesday Kitchen, along with a good supply of Next Meal info cards for the Kitchen’s guests.

High level backing and commendation

Comics Sean Lock and Lee Mack, and actress Naomie Harris, supported the launch, and Theresa May has awarded Martin Stone the ‘Points of Light’ award for the venture, a government award which recognises outstanding individual volunteers whose work is making a positive impact on a whole community.

Next Meal is just one of a number of recent technological initiatives to connect the homeless to local services. Streetlink is an app which tells the user – whether homeless person or concerned passerby – where the nearest night shelters and help centres are located.

Exeter’s city-wide response to the problem of homelessness

There was a great turnout in the Chapter House for the southwest launch of Next Meal. On behalf of the Cathedral, I was delighted to welcome the Lord Mayor of Exeter – Councillor Peter Holland – and Mrs Jacky Holland, other members of Exeter City Council, and representatives from Exeter Food Action, St Petrock’s, Julian House, Food Exeter, the Salvation Army, our own Wednesday Kitchen, Apple, Nexus, the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, nursing staff from the RD&E emergency department, Exeter College, and Exeter University.

The Lord Mayor spoke inspirationally about a charity he’d been involved with in Plymouth some years earlier, which helped homeless people get back into work by arranging work experience and placements for them. In discussion at the launch, it was clear that everyone had a strong desire not just to help in times of crisis, but to put in place a city-wide Plan. This involves all the agencies represented, and more, to lift people out of homelessness and set them on the path to better health, a home to live in, the opportunity for training and work, help to restore broken relationships, and so to regain their sense of worth and purpose.

Canon Chris Palmer represents the Cathedral in discussions with the Exeter Homelessness Partnership. The Partnership has recently taken a big step forward in agreeing to employ someone to pull all the city’s resources together in order to bring about positive change.

Joined-up thinking

Martin Stone’s passion is to see more of this joined-up thinking in every part of the country, and ultimately for there to be a national strategy that works. He clearly has a significant role as an inspirer, catalyst, and encourager in bringing about change. In my conversation with him over coffee earlier that week, he shared that he suspects his next major work will be to come alongside schools to inspire them to help young people develop the resilience that will enable them to withstand the knocks of life. Only that way can we hope to stem the flow of people who might otherwise spiral downwards to the streets in times of significant adversity. A vast new task indeed!

Canon Becky Totterdell, St Peter Canon

Photos from Exeter Launch, June 28th, 2019

On June 28, we held a launch event in Exeter Cathedral to highlight homeless charities and create awareness of Next Meal. We were delighted by the turnout, which included the Mayor and many other local dignitaries, as well as a number of charities and media outlets.

If you attended, see if you can recognise yourself in this gallery…

The Felix Project Interview for Next Meal

Giving people access to services and education they desperately need makes our cities better environments for everyone, which is why we support the Next Meal good food campaign.

Interview with Tash Clementis, Central London Co-ordinator, The Felix Project

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Tash. We know from personal experience about The Felix Project and the amazing work you do, so we’re sure that our followers will be interested to hear more.

What does The Felix Project do?

The Felix Project rescues high-quality nutritious food for people in London who struggle to afford good food. This is food from suppliers, including supermarkets, wholesalers, farms, restaurants and delis that would otherwise go to waste. It’s delivered to charities that cook meals and prepare food parcels and to primary schools to distribute to children and their families.

How much food do you distribute?

This year we will deliver 2,000 tonnes of food to more than 280 London charities and primary schools. This is enough food to make almost five million meals.

How does the operation work?

Volunteers collect food from suppliers in vans, sort it and then deliver it to charities and schools. We have depots in North and West London and do our best to keep local food local, which is greener and builds a sense of community with suppliers, charities and volunteers. 

Our central London operation uses 100% green energy. Deliveries from suppliers go direct to charities in electric vans and Green Scheme volunteers do walking and cycling collections and deliveries. 

Is this a model that can work in other cities around the world?

Absolutely! There’s no shortage of food in cities, but there’s a lot of wastage. Retailers and producers are happy to give us their surplus food for free and our logistics are easily replicable, which offers a way to remodel food supply and help homeless people and others in London who struggle to afford good food. Sharing food brings a sense of happiness.

It must be costly to run this operation in an expensive city like London?

We keep running costs low thanks to suppliers who donate their surplus food for free, just two depots to minimise overheads and a small staff. We are also extremely lucky to have made some fantastic friends with companies who provide equipment, tech solutions, services and logistical support for free or at extremely low rates. 

At the heart of this success is the goodwill and generosity of our volunteers, without whom we would have to pay a workforce to provide the service. Ultimately, with the kindness of just a few organisations and some wonderful willing volunteers we have built a low cost, sustainable, scalable, environmentally friendly, unique service in the very heart of London. 

Why do you like the Next Meal ‘good food’ campaign?

Next Meal helps people find amazing food in a really simple way, and the good food campaign is about healthy food for a balanced diet. Giving people access to services and education they desperately need makes our cities better environments for everyone, which is why we support the Next Meal good food campaign.

How can people support The Felix Project?

We are always delighted to welcome new supporters who help reduce food waste and ensure that good food reaches people who really need it. Please visit www.thefelixproject.org to make a donation or sign up as a volunteer. We’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Tash, and keep up the amazing work!

Exeter launch on June 28

Exeter Cathedral

We are excited to announce that our Exeter launch will be held at the beautiful Exeter Cathedral on 28th June, with the Councillor Leader of Housing for Exeter in attendance along with extensive press and media support.

This completes a trilogy of successful launches in the South West, following Bristol and Plymouth.

If you are in the Exeter area please feel free to come along!

Does your store cupboard pass the Next Meal challenge?

We believe that it’s important the food we serve should offer a balanced diet. After all, good physical health is essential to maintain good mental health.

That’s why we’re asking you to review the food that is donated. Does it pass the Next Meal test?

  • Is it in good condition and within the expiry date?
  • Check the salt and fat content isn’t high.
  • Make sure you’re using the food within the best practice guidelines.
  • Serve sparingly if high in salt and sugar.
  • Is it nutritious?
  • Does it provide the right balance for the people that we are serving it to?

We’d love to know what’s in your store cupboard. Upload photos and tag us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.