In praise of 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!

Member Spotlight: Opera Messa della Carità, Milan

Photo of canteen

My name is Paolo…

My warm greetings to all the homeless centres across Europe.

I have been volunteering for two years and I am mainly involved in assisting the manager. I commit to my duties here with a lot of passion and the help that I provide, even if it is small, makes me very happy. I know I am just a drop in the ocean, but  a lot of drops together will create the ocean itself.

Since I have started volunteering, the number of guests that comes into the canteen is pretty much the same. We host 100-120 people daily except Saturdays. We are also closed in August. We can say that in Italy there is a common break, so it is very difficult to find volunteers. That does not mean that we leave poor people alone, since there are other centres where they can easily find assistance and their next meal.

The guests are mostly men (80-90%). We do host women and they usually have a separate area in the canteen where they can enjoy their meal, unless they have sons or their husband, in which case they eat all together.

The majority of our guests come from abroad. Almost all of them speak Italian even if it’s just a little. Then you can hear English, French, Spanish which are also comprehensible for us. There are a few cases of African or Asian guests who do not speak or understand any other language. That makes the conversation a bit difficult but not impossible. Because all the guests have been living in Italy, they do speak a basic Italian and Milan offers free courses to learn Italian too.

A typical meal at the OMC consists of traditional food: pasta or rice as a main course, soup, meat and veggies or a cold dish as a second course, fruits, desserts and vegetarian options on request.

According to a Milanotoday article there are 2,608 homeless in Milan.

Next Meal is now a charity!

We are delighted to be able to announce that Next Meal is now a registered charity.

It is extraordinary what Next Meal has been able to achieve over the past years: no formal structure, less money, but a wonderful facility in the website, massive momentum and enormous goodwill.  All this and more has been created by everyone contributing to build something with the potential to achieve real change.

It’s wonderful that the Charity Commission, having looked really carefully at everything that Next Meal does and everything we plan to do, has decided that Next Meal really is working for the public benefit, helping some of the most vulnerable in our society.

Martin already has a great team behind Next Meal. He has gathered a board of enthusiastic trustees to lead Next Meal now that it’s a charity. Our determination is that from the amazing beginnings, Next Meal might become an ever-growing force for kindness and change.

Jonathan Ashley-Norman QC

Chair of the trustees.

Meet a hero: Hilary Knight

Hilary Knight, Coordinator of the Plymouth Soup Run
Hilary Knight
Coordinator of the Plymouth Soup Run

Tell us about Plymouth Soup Run
Plymouth soup run is a community and faith driven service providing free food and hot drinks to homeless, hungry and vulnerable people 365 days a year.

How long have you run the soup run?
Over 10 years

What are the times and how often is it open?
Seven nights a week! Usually 9:15pm to 10:15pm

What do you serve?
Hot soup , sandwiches, fresh fruit and a treat!

How many do you feed?
Up to 90 folk

How does affect you?
The Police and community services have really seen it as an opportunity to engage with street homeless people and direct them to the homeless centres to receive help and support.

You can find Plymouth Soup Run on Facebook.

You can read more on helping the homeless in Plymouth here.

Singing for the soupy!

Opera singer and Muswell Hill local Lesley Garrett
Opera singer Lesley Garrett

Here’s a little insight into something we did in Muswell Hill to raise funds.

We organised an event called “Sing for the Soupy”. The event took place on a Saturday afternoon and ran for around one hour.

We were very lucky to have opera singer and local celebrity Lesley Garrett take part and sing in our local church. We also had children from local schools participate. It was a really fun way to raise funds.

It involved the whole community and everyone had a wonderful time. It was really uplifting for the singers and the audience. Most importantly, we raised funds!

5 steps to achieve a 5* food safety rating

5 star Food Hygiene Rating graphic

Having spoken to centres around the country, we know that the biggest concerns are Food, Funding and Safety. Our first edition focuses on food safety.

Food safety should be the number one priority for every centre and these straightforward steps will help you achieve the best hygiene rating.

The Food Standards Agency provides helpful guidance for any organisation serving food to the public:

1. The four main things to remember for good hygiene are the 4 Cs:

                 – Cleaning

                 – Cooking 

                 – Chilling

                 – Cross-contamination

2. Obtain the Food Safety level 2 course for all operatives (many can be achieved online).

3. Ensure that you have a contract with a registered pest control company. They can provide lots of helpful advice and guidance.

4. Engage positively with the Council Environmental Health Inspectors.

5. Never be complacent. Carry daily, weekly and monthly checks and always have an evidence trail.

If you’d like to contribute your ideas to improving safety please let us know – contact

Happy cooking!!!