Coronavirus: update from Edinburgh

As part of our regular contact with centres on the Next Meal network, we asked Edinburgh City Mission for an update on their activities during the Covid-19 lockdown. Here’s what they told us.

Our services for people who are experiencing homelessness in Edinburgh are still running.

Maria Reyes, Edinburgh City Mission

The Care Van, our project run in partnership with Bethany Christian Trust, is still providing soup, food, hot drinks, encouragement and advice to up to 50 homeless and vulnerable people a night.

Edinburgh City Mission co-ordinates the evening rotas for 42 teams that are drawn from churches across the Lothians and includes over 750 volunteers. In terms of numbers, they are slowly rising again for the Care Van, from mid-20s before the restrictions to 43 on Monday. 

We are now also running two Soul Food ‘Grab & Go” Take Away Meals, one at City of Edinburgh Methodist Church in Newington, and one at Carrubbers Christian Centre on the High Street. Soul Food has also other partners around the city, all still providing now Take Away Meals in order to adjust to the crisis. In terms of numbers, they have also been increasing. This week in the two meals we run we had nearly 70 people. 

Colin Ramsay, Care Van volunteer

From all of us at Next Meal, a massive thank you to all the staff and volunteers in Edinburgh for keeping things going during these difficult times.

Adapting to Change

Empty supermarket shelf

It’s been a really challenging few weeks for those working to support the hungry, the homeless and the vulnerable across the country. With the coronavirus impacting every aspect of society, soup kitchens, food banks and support centres have found themselves suddenly under-staffed and short on supplies. 

Every centre is different, and all of you have made some tough decisions to protect your visitors, volunteers and staff. Of the 391 sites on Next Meal, many of you have let us know your new situation – thank you. You are helping us to make sure our database is up-to-date and remains a valuable resource. 

We want to take a moment to thank you for everything you do – none of this is easy.

We don’t know what the coming weeks or months will bring. It’s likely we’ll need to adapt many times over. Whatever decision you’ve made for your centre – if you’re wondering how you can still help, or you’re taking this time to reflect and take stock – please keep in touch.   

With everything changing so fast, it’s tough for those managing support centres, so we thought we’d gather together some resources that might help.

Guidance for homeless services

Glasgow homeless person

Whether you’re still open or planning your next steps:

Homeless Link are running a weekly webinar with useful updates. 

Here is a useful list of resources from Healthy London for organisations caring for rough sleepers – this PDF has the main things that you need to know.

Guidance from the Government on how to protect yourself and your visitors from coronavirus.

Groundswell has produced guidance on coronavirus for people who are rough sleeping, translated into Polish and Romanian.

Groundswell poster in Polish

Some joy!

We’ve seen some incredible innovation in how people are helping the most vulnerable. Here are just a few we have seen recently:

The Angel & Crown pub in Richmond pub is serving hot food to the homeless.

Pub serving food to homeless

Charities in Glasgow are teaming up with the Council to provide meal deliveries – and microwaves! – to those in need.

Chefs in Bristol have created a food delivery service for the homeless, aiming to feed 600 people a day.  

Chef preparing takeaway

Arch Healthcare GP in Brighton has been handing out mobile phones to its 1,400 homeless patients.

We can all take heart from the widespread public compassion in action in this time of crisis.

We’re closed, what can I do?

Print and display guidance for your regular visitors outside your centre – these fact sheets from Groundswell are handy and printable.

If you’re still in contact with your visitors, make sure they register with their local council to get support. Here’s Shelter’s guidance on this.

They should also register with the Government and tell them if they need support.

Tell your visitors to check Next Meal for their nearest centre but be sure to call to see if they’re still open.

Next Meal homepage

What else can I do?

Find out what your local council is doing to support the homeless. For example, Southwark Council has a dedicated page for free food services. 

Southwark Council food access advice

Join a community page on Facebook, like this one in Chelmsford, Essex, that have emerged to share support for the vulnerable locally.

Here are some examples of good deeds you could do for your loved ones or your local community.

What should I tell my volunteers?

They could sign up to the London rota to help out at the hotels sheltering homeless people.

If they see a rough sleeper, they can contact StreetLink or inform them that they can use Next Meal to find a soup kitchen near them (adhering to social distancing) – remember to tell them to call first to make sure they’re still open.

They can find local support groups to help out here.

If they wish, they could donate to a charity supporting the homeless, like St Mungos or The Passage.

Share this general advice for volunteers during this time.

Advice for volunteers

Can we ask you a favour?

We want to make sure our listings are as accurate as possible so anyone accessing Next Meal in need of food and support knows which centres are open. If you run a centre please take a look at your listing on Next Meal, and let us know if you are closed, your new hours if you are open, or any other details that need to be updated.

Next Meal centres listing

We would also love to hear your stories. Together, we’ve got a lot of experience – if you have any tips for other centres or you want to share something you’re doing during this crisis, post it on social media with the hashtag #FindYourNextMeal.

To end on a note of hope, we found this uplifting piece on Homelessness Impact – this crisis is tough but we will learn from it and hopefully it will help to bring forward the urgency of our common drive to end homelessness.

Stay healthy, positive, and innovative.

The Next Meal Team

Woman in mask in front of poster saying These Days Will Pass

It’s Official: Next Meal Launched as a Charity

After years of hard work, countless hours of volunteer effort and many lives being changed, Next Meal has officially been launched as a charity.

The official launch was hosted at the House of Commons this month, an event that was attended by politicians, government officials, and volunteers.

It marks great progress for Next Meal since we first began in 2017.

Founder Martin Stone said he was extremely proud of how much Next Meal had grown in such a short time.

Martin’s pride was shared by several prominent officials at the launch, who acknowledged the great success of Next Meal and applauded the work being done.

NHS regional director for London Sir David Sloman said Next Meal did more than just help provide people with food.

“It’s not just about giving people a hot nutritious meal, it’s about bringing people together, to share stories, talk to each other and get some warmth in their lives.

“Something we take for granted, but which many many people don’t have.”

Maria Goddard of Whittington Hospital said Next Meal was making real changes to people’s lives.

“Feeding someone is such a basic expression of caring. Lives can be saved and I believe they already have been by this simple signposting.”

Comedian Sean Lock, a neighbour of Martin’s who also helped with the original launch of Next Meal,  shared a few laughs.

“I thought ‘Why not? Why not do something good? And maybe you’ll get something out of it for you – like George Clooney did for Nespresso’.

“I could be the Next Meal guy,” He joked.

The event was hosted by Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West and Gravesham MP Adam Holloway.

Catherine said it was an honour to be associated with Next Meal and praised everyone involved.

Adam agreed and said there were a lot of soup kitchens in the country: “What this is doing is bringing them together.”

The launch followed another recent milestone, the second year of Next Meal Saturday.

Imagine If You Had the Power to Change Someone’s Life…

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.

5 Easy Ways You Can Help a Homeless Person (That Don’t Involve Giving Money)

There is a lot of debate about whether you should give money to homeless people.

Some argue it is better to give that money to an organisation committed to helping homeless people. A common argument against giving homeless people money is: ‘they’ll just spend it on drugs or alcohol’.

But who’s to say what a homeless person will spend their money on? And it can be quite difficult and cold to simply turn a blind eye to those in need. 

Do you turn your music up? Keep reading your book? Look away? Or politely say no?

There are plenty of ways you can help that don’t involve giving someone money, but that can still have a positive impact.

Here are a few suggestions, but it’s up to you to do whatever you feel comfortable doing.

Here are some ways you can help:

Buy someone food

Is there someone begging outside a supermarket? Buy them a sandwich or a non alcoholic drink instead of giving them money. 

Carry some small items of food with you

If you regularly pass someone begging for money, you could buy some food in advance and give it to them when you see them. Fruit and cereal bars are just a couple of ideas.

Give them a Next Meal card

The whole purpose of Next Meal is to help homeless people in a huge way, that can improve their lives much more than a few coins ever could.
If you don’t feel comfortable just giving them a card, you could give them a card along with some food, or some money, if you wish.

Donate to a homeless charity

Put your spare change aside and once you have hit a certain goal, donate that to a homeless charity of your choice. Or simply sign up for monthly payments, or make a one off payment.


There are thousands of organisations across the UK that can use volunteers; soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and more. You can use to find your nearest group.

How to get Next Meal cards:

  1. Go to Next and find your nearest soup kitchen.
  2. Contact them and ask how you can help, or if you can pick up Next Meal cards.
  3. Even just one card could make a huge difference to someone’s life.

How to make an easy New Year’s Resolution and help a person in need

2020 is here. The start of a new year. The start of a new decade.

So it’s time for some resolutions right?

Did you know: Research has shown that most people give up on their resolutions before the end of January.

So why not tick an easy one off within the first month of the year?

Here’s a few easy suggestions for resolutions to help other people – that’ll no doubt make you feel better about yourself too.


There are thousands of organisations across the UK that can use volunteers; soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and more. You can use to find your nearest group.

Give out Next Meal cards

The Next Meal website can direct homeless and vulnerable people to the nearest soup kitchen, shelter, or day centre on any given day.

Next Meal cards are an easy way to spread the word and let people know they can use the Next Meal website. 

If you don’t feel comfortable just giving someone a card, you could give them a card along with some food, or some money, if you wish.

Next Meal Saturday is coming up on January 25 – a great opportunity to get involved and make a difference. Check out our Facebook page for more information.

Donate to a homeless charity

Put your spare change in a jar and once it’s full donate it to a homeless charity of your choice. Or you could sign up for monthly payments, or simply make a one off payment.

What is Next Meal Saturday?

January 25 is fast approaching and that means Next Meal Saturday is almost here.

But that may have you asking: ‘What is Next Meal Saturday?’

Next Meal Saturday is our ambitious goal of giving a Next Meal card to every homeless or vulnerable person in the UK.

A Next Meal card is more valuable than money. By giving it to someone, you’re helping them find the nearest soup kitchen, shelter, or day centre on any given day.

On January 25, volunteers will be on the streets handing out the cards to the homeless, hungry and vulnerable. 

“Even just one card can make a huge difference to someone’s life,” Next Meal founder Martin Stone said.

Next Meal Saturday started in 2019 and is now into its second year.

“Next Meal Saturday is going from strength to strength,” Martin said.

“We know it’s an ambitious goal, but that’s what Next Meal was set up for.”

This year Martin will be leading the cause from Exeter. But he encouraged people to get involved wherever they were.

Here’s how you can get involved:

  1. Go to Next
  2. Find your nearest soup kitchen.
  3. Contact them and ask how you can help, or if you can pick up Next Meal cards.
  4. On January 25, give out a card- even just one card could make a huge difference.

Use the hashtag #NextMealSaturday on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to tell us how you got on. We’d love to hear from you.

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.