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.
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.
Check out our latest newsletter, featuring an interview with Mick Clarke, Chief Executive of The Passage. Mick talks about the work that The Passage is doing to help end homelessness, and the importance of Next Meal.
We also kick off our Volunteer of the Month awards, celebrating the wonderful people who give so much to help the needy.
In response to an article in The Spectator, Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell wrote a letter in which he mentioned the great work that Next Meal is doing to help the street homeless and vulnerable.
Andrew is a strong supporter of Next Meal and is co-hosting a launch event at the House of Commons next year. The event was originally scheduled for October but due to the UK’s uncertain political situation we have postponed it until February – more on that in a future blog.
The link is here, but in case you have difficulty accessing it, we’ve copied the letter below.
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.
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!
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…
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!