What’s Next: October newsletter

Our October newsletter is now out. As we celebrate our second birthday, we look back at some of the highlights of the last two years.

We also congratulate our first Volunteer of the Month, Bridget Lane, for her unfailing daily collections of food whatever the weather.

And we ask everyone to put Next Meal Saturday, January 25, 2020 in their diaries. This is the day when we aim to give every street homeless person in the UK a Next Meal card, and encourage them to visit their local support centre.

You can read the newsletter here.

Next Meal is two years old!

Next Meal was launched in October 2017, so we thought we’d take a look back at some of the highlights of the last two years. It’s been an exciting journey and with the help of many volunteers, we’ve come a long way in a short time. Here are our highlights:

  • From a standing start, the Next Meal website now lists almost 400 centres offering food and support.
  • As more cities have been added to the database, Next Meal has hosted launches in London, Cambridge, Bristol, Birmingham, Plymouth and Exeter.
  • Next Meal has attracted extensive media coverage, locally, nationally and most recently, globally. We’ve had features in the Financial Times, the Big Issue, on local and national BBC, and the World Service. Plus many, many more!
  • In the summer of 2018, Founder Martin Stone was recognised by the Prime Minister’s Office as a “Point of Light.” This award marks outstanding individual volunteers who are making a change in their community. 
  • In March 2018, the 3Cs business support community granted Next Meal its 3Cs innovation award.  You can read more about the 3Cs here.
  • We have engaged with hospitals, local police (and in particular Safer Neighbourhood Teams), central London hotels, churches and other faith groups to let them know about Next Meal and supply them with cards for distribution.
  • We’ve launched a monthly newsletter with news, articles and advice on best practices. We’re always growing a community of mutual support and assistance amongst those serving our vulnerable homeless people. This will never change.
  • The grant of charitable status in April 2019 has allowed Next Meal to develop into a distinct entity, independent of the Soup Kitchen from which it originated. This will help us to accelerate our plans to develop our network and increase awareness of the service.
  • Next Meal has come to the attention of politicians across the political spectrum, as a result of which it has been given the opportunity to host a launch party at the Houses of Parliament in the new year.   

But we’re just starting. There’s so much more we want to achieve and we can only do it with your help. One of our goals is to build a vibrant, effective network of centres that share experiences, resources and ideas so that we can all grow together. 

Over the coming months, we’ll be introducing various initiatives to support this aim, so please do get involved and together we can help more homeless and vulnerable people in need.

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.

Are homeless people overfed but undernourished?

Nicole Berberian-Alabaster
TV & Media Nutritionist

In recent research, results have shown that homeless people are increasingly dying of strokes. In order to find out if the homeless are being overfed, yet undernourished, we spoke with nutrition expert Nicole Berberian-Alabaster.

What is research telling us about the diets of homeless people?

Studies on the homeless find that they are indeed not getting what they need nutritionally. They found this group is low in fruit, fibre, protein, vitamin C, selenium, zinc, and for women, iron. Milk and calcium intake were also low. However, the results showed a high level of alcohol, salt and saturated fats.

What is the impact of a poor diet?

The effects of an unbalanced diet mean that the average age of death in this group is just 47 years, with the leading cause of death being cardiovascular disease.

Mental illness is higher in the homeless too, with a link to high alcohol use and lows in the important B vitamin thiamin.

Thiamin is already low in this kind of diet, but alcohol makes this worse by blocking it coming into the body. The result is even lower thiamin.

Low thiamin leads to a serious mental health and brain condition called Wernicke-Korsakoff’s syndrome. The effects are confusion, impaired coordination of limbs, memory problems and brain damage, along with heart failure.

The drug-free way and starting point to improve both these conditions, and the many other related health issues, is diet.

Could you suggest a healthy menu that would work best for our guests?

My idea of the perfect healthy menu would look a little like this…

Vegetable soup: Onions, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, lentils.

Main meal: Pork, chicken or beef. Whole grain bread, pasta, potatoes or rice. Plus seasonal vegetables.

Dessert: Fresh Fruit served with yoghurt, or make an oat crumble and include dry fruit.

You can find lots more on nutrition on Nicole’s website.

In praise of volunteers

Volunteers

One thing we have in common is that we all have volunteers …

They are vital in providing our service and to keep the cost of the service at a workable level.

Here in Muswell Hill, everyone is a volunteer and we provide a hot three-course meal five evenings a week. We have a pool of about 60 volunteers working different rotas.

I would really like to know members’ experiences with volunteers across the UK and Europe

1. Do you have enough volunteers?

2. How long do they stay for? Six months, two years or more?

3. Do they get on the job training?

4. Give me three reasons why they volunteer at your centre.

Do let me know.

Also, it would be great if this army of volunteers would carry Next Meal cards and promote it in your towns and cities, so please ask and we’ll get some to you!