January 25, 2020, was a lot like many other winter’s days in the United Kingdom.
At a high of about 6degC it was not one you wanted to spend outside for long.
Across the country, people saw their friends, had a beer at the pub, watched football, and spent time with their families.
And on that same day, hundreds of people sat in the cold, shivering, hungry and alone – because they had nowhere else to go.
An estimated 320,000 people are homeless in the United Kingdom, according to statistics from homeless charity Shelter.
That’s why, on that same day – January 25, 2020 – volunteers went and handed out Next Meal cards and food to mark Next Meal Saturday.
Next Meal Saturday is the ambitious goal of giving a Next Meal card to every homeless or vulnerable person in the UK.
A Next Meal card is a way to raise awareness for the Next Meal website – which uses GPS to help people find their nearest soup kitchen, shelter, or day centre on any given day.
London lead the way, with volunteers at Kings Cross, Euston, and London Bridge handing out cards and food.
Next Meal founder Martin Stone marked the day in Exeter – where the city’s cathedral was lit up with Next Meal’s logo and message.
“Every card that was handed out carries the potential to change a life,” Martin said.
“Helping people find their nearest soup kitchen means they can get a regular source of food, some warmth, and even some genuine human interaction.
“Even just one card can make a huge difference.”
Next Meal Saturday started in 2019, with 2020 marking its second year.
“Next Meal Saturday is going from strength to strength,” Martin said.
“We’re looking forward to 2021 being even more successful.”
From a standing start, the Next Meal website now lists almost 400 centres offering food and support.