10 ways a caterer can help with homelessness and foodbanks

Homelessness is increasing significantly and food bank use continues to rise. What can a caterer do to help?  There are already a number of caterers helping others, so I decided to write  a detailed post about what they do in the hope that it helps other caterers who may be thinking that they too want to help.
  • 47 is the average age of death of a homeless person (Crisis)
  • 4,134 people are estimated to be sleeping rough on any one night (Homeless Link)
  • 132% rise in rough sleepers since 2010 (Crisis)
  • 16% rise in rough sleepers since 2015 (Crisis)
  • Over 125,000 homeless children living in Britain today (Shelter)
  • 62% of single homeless people may not show up in official figures (Crisis)
These are just the statistics – the human suffering is immense. How many homeless people are there where you live and shop? How many pass by your cafe or restaurant on a daily basis?  As a caterer, could you help just one person?

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one (Mother Teresa)
Homeless people and how a caterer can help
  • 2,000 foodbanks operating in the UK (Trusssell Trust)
  • 1.2 million food parcels given out in 2016-2017 (Trussell Trust)
Foodbank use across the UK is at a record high. Dr Kingsley Purdam from Manchester University has stated that the demand for foodbanks is underestimated with large numbers of people thought to be at risk from malnutrition in the UK.
In areas where Universal Credit is being rolled out, the average foodbank demand has climbed to 30%.
Whilst local authorities have provided some funding, food aid is predominately reliant on volunteers, food donations and the support of supermarkets and food manufacturers (K. Purdam, E. Garratt, & A. Esmail ‘Hungry? Food Insecurity, Social Stigma, and Embarrassment in the UK’)
10 ways a caterer can help with homelessness and food banks
Having been a caterer for many years I always hated disposing of surplus food, but never knew who wanted it or where it could be taken. Often the food I had left over needed to be cleared late at night after a function.  If there had been a community fridge I would gladly have taken it there. How much food, I wonder, is wasted by other caterers.
A friend of mine wrote and performed the song ‘Foodbanks and Ferraris’ a few years ago, but I believe it is even more pertinent today.


The #Panama Papers scandal reveals how powerful corporations and super-rich individuals are continuing to exploit a rigged global system that allows them to avoid paying their fair share of tax. And it’s the world’s poorest people who pay the price. (Oxfam)
We are the fifth largest economy in the world yet homelessness is increasing and foodbank use is soaring. What worries me is the ‘normalisation’ of this trend. Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg  stated “to have charitable support given people voluntarily to support their fellow citizens, I think is rather uplifting and shows what a good compassionate country we are”. Perhaps he should be reminded of the quote by Nelson Mandela [ “overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity, it is an act of justice”]
Nelson Mandella quote on overcoming poverty. A caterer can help.
An interesting blog by Goldsmiths University of London is well worth a read, when the question is asked if anyone is listening as there is so much data available about food poverty and so little changes in politics. Read the blog
What can a caterer do to help? 
It is evident that there needs to be major changes in government policy to tackle homelessness and the necessity for foodbanks, but there are ways that a caterer can help. The following are examples of caterers that help others with a brief explanation of what they do:
1.  Suspended Coffees

  • A suspended coffee is the advance purchase of a cup of coffee for someone who needs it, no matter why.
  • The idea originated in Naples, Italy, but went global following John Sweeney’s Facebook page in 2013. His message was simple – Buy a cup of coffee for a stranger, because an act of kindness can change a life. He is an inspirational person.
  • It doesn’t have to be a cup of coffee, it can be a cold drink, soup, a sandwich, or a full meal.
 There are too many catering establishments to list here that have signed up to the suspended coffee movement, but I have details of two here:
 The caterer at the filling station cafe participates in suspended coffees.
 The caterer at Edible Elegance participates in suspended coffees.
To find out more click www.suspendedcoffees.com
2.  Cafe Art
 Cafe Art joins a caterer and a homeless artist together over a cup of coffee.
  • Framed paintings and drawings by people affected by homelessness in London are hung in cafes.
  • They try to connect the buyer of a piece of art with the artist over a cup of coffee in the cafe where the art is hung.
  • Cafe Art began in London in 2012 with one local cafe and one art group run by a homelessness sector organisation. Michael Wong founded Cafe Art after seeing lots of amazing art being created every week and not enough wall space to display it.
  • There are more than twenty cafes participating in the programme.
  • It costs cafes nothing to participate – just wall space.
 One of the participating cafes is Oliver’s Village Cafe
The caterer at Olivers' Village Cafe hangs paintings created by homeless people.
 Cafe Art are looking to involve other cities in the UK.  If you are interested please click www.cafeart.org.uk
3.” Pay as you like”
 The pay as you like concept means that customers pay what the meal is worth, and it doesn’t have to be money. It can be time volunteering with the cafe, handing out flyers or simply saying thank you.  If the customer decides to pay then it is greatly appreciated.
 If a customer at the empty plate cafe cannot afford to pay for a meal, they are provided with one for free.
The Empty Plate Cafe
The Empty Plate Cafe is the first of its kind in Worthing and serves hot, healthy and nutritious meals, which are available to everybody in the local community. The pay as you like concept means that meals are available to everybody regardless of their financial situation, this means that those who really need it can be helped.
4. No one eats alone on Christmas Day
Last year a Turkish restaurant in Sidcup offered a free meal to anyone who found themselves alone on Christmas Day. A poster on the window read “No one eats alone on Christmas Day. We are here to sit with you”.
 The caterer at a turkish restaurant provides a christmas meal for the homeless and elderly.
I’d love to know of any other caterers who are making a similar offer this year.
5. Food Vouchers
  • Granny Macs, a cafe in Cardiff, is selling vouchers to customers which can be used to buy a homeless person a meal.
  • The scheme started in March 2017 after the staff saw homeless people in the street outside the cafe, and wanted to do something to help.
  • For £3.80 customers can buy a “Mini Mac Breakfast” and the cafe will bump it up to a large breakfast.
  • There are different vouchers available from hot drinks to bacon rolls and different sized breakfasts, so everyone can buy one to suit their budget.
 6. Meal in a bag
The caterer at the Bosu Body Bar leaves bags of food outside it's restaurant for the homeless.
Bosu Body Bar
  • A restaurant in Manchester, the Bosu Body Bar, leaves bags outside its doors full of food every night.
  • They started to do this after noticing a sharp rise in people sleeping rough.
  • They are now encouraging customers to donate unwanted warm clothing to hand out alongside the food.
7. Social Bite

  • Social Bite is a cause driven business rather than profit driven.
  • No individual will ever get rich from Social Bite. After staff are paid and costs are covered every penny of profit is put towards tackling social problems here and abroad.
  • It has five shops based in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, with plans to expand to Dundee.
  • The dream is that one day there will be a chain of Social Bites donating millions of pounds to many charities, 25% of whom will have been homeless.
 100% of our profits go to charity
1 in 4 of our staff are formally homeless
Freshly prepared food made with local produce
They also participate in Suspended Coffee and Food.
For more information click www.social-bite.co.uk
8.  Providing training, jobs & housing support to the homeless 
 The caterer makes speciality coffee and provides training and jobs for people experiencing homelessness.
  • Old Spike Roastery was set up in 2015 with a simple goal – to help fight homelessness in the UK by roasting and supplying some of the country’s finest speciality coffee.
  • Aside from providing the community with great coffee, their core mission is to provide expert training, jobs and housing support for people experiencing homelessness across the UK.
9. Community Fridge
Community Fridges are communal places where surplus food is shared in a community, by local businesses and individuals.

An example, is the Brixton Community Fridge

  • The average UK family wastes £470 a year by throwing away food and drink which could have been eaten.
  • £3 billion is wasted by food sectors
  • So far Community Fridges have helped thousands connect to their communities, access nutritious food, save money and reduce waste.
 The Community Fridge Network has been set up to connect community fridge projects across the UK.
To get involved click  hubbub.org.uk
10. Donating Food
As a caterer or food supplier, you can donate surplus food to FareShare. This is a non-profit charity.
  • They take non-perishable, in-date food.
  • They distribute food to charities such as homeless shelters, drug misuse recovery centres, older people’s services and breakfast clubs, where it will be eaten by vulnerable people.
 Tesco’s Christmas advert showcases the work they do with FareShare and The Trussell Trust
For more information contact the Food Team on 020 7064 8911 or email foodoffers@fareshare.org.uk
Reverse Advent Calendar 
UK Money Bloggers have launched a campaign to get people to start a Reverse Advent Calendar.
Instead of getting a treat yourself, you make a donation suitable to be sent to your local food bank. You will need a cardboard box and every day, for a period of 25 days, you place a food item in the box.
This is really something an individual can do- but all caterers are individuals!
For more information go to UKmoneybloggers.com
If you have any other ideas how a caterer can help with homelessness and foodbanks, I’d love to hear from you.
Finally, I apologise to those caterers helping others that I haven’t mentioned. I am, however, devoting a section of my website showcasing caring caterers – so please let me know if there is a caterer I should add by clicking here

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