'Cook To Conquer': Charity's rallying cry to feed people through the crisis

Volunteer Bridget lane with Martin Stone at Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen

Volunteer Bridget lane with Martin Stone at Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen - Credit: Polly Hancock

Community kitchens must spring up to produce one hot meal each week for those who need it – that's the rallying cry from a soup kitchen charity as the cost of living crisis deepens.

Next Meal is a national charity based in Muswell Hill which runs a website (nextmeal.co.uk) using GPS technology to enable people to find a free hot meal nearby.

With April bringing a hike in fuel prices, and millions of households struggling to make ends meet, founder Martin Stone is calling for every town and village to provide a hot meal each week.

“We want to encourage people across the country to seize the moment to prevent people falling ill, being hungry, being cold in winter by providing hot food locally at least once a week," he said.

Volunteer manager Asam Ali loads up the van with Next Meal's Martin Stone at Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen

Volunteer manager Asam Ali loads up the van with Next Meal's Martin Stone at Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen - Credit: Polly Hancock

Cook To Conquer, supported by this newspaper, aims to expand on the 400 soup kitchens on nextmeal.co.uk, and to take the number into the thousands.

The charity offers advice and support to community kitchens, as well as Zoom meetings to make them part of a national network.

“People are just not being able to make ends meet, and we get several phone calls a week from people in desperate need for food because their financials haven't worked, and they've deeply appreciated hot food and other things that we can share with them," said Martin. “A lot of people are already finding that their sums just don't add up when it comes to their weekly budget.” 

He added: “Together, we 'Cook To Conquer' because we're overcoming this winter. We've got to make sure nobody really becomes very ill or worse, due to hypothermia or something, so it's being together and being able to conquer the adversity that befalls us.” 

Martin Stone sorts through donated food at Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen

Martin Stone sorts through donated food at Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen - Credit: Polly Hancock

Next Meal grew up out of Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen, which not only supports north Londoners, but also supplies partner groups in Burnley, Lancashire.

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“We wanted to demonstrate that the south support the north in a practical way, when communities are going to be overwhelmed by this tsunami of energy bills that are coming," said Martin. "And worse is to come.”

Contact Martin and Next Meal at soupkitchen@mhbc.org.uk