A CAFE owner in Leamington is helping to feed the homeless after being inspired by a scheme in the United States.
Sophie Eades, owner of the Mashed Swede cafe in Russell Street, has been encouraging people to buy an extra meal which will then be donated to a homeless or vulnerable person.
She heard about the scheme taking off in America and decided to bring the idea across the Atlantic.
And since it started just before Christmas, generous visitors have donated more than 50 meals at a cost of £5 each.
For each donation a voucher is stuck to a board on the wall and is then used by someone in need to collect a free meal and drink.
People who donate can also take their voucher to give to a someone needing a hot meal.
Sophie told the Observer: “I decided to start the scheme at Christmas as people are usually more generous then. But we need to spread the word so we can ensure there are enough meals in the kitty so people can pop in to eat on a regular basis.
“We are seeing more people coming in to donate meals and more vulnerable people coming to enjoy some hot food. I do tell them not to rely on the meals though as we cannot guarantee there will be vouchers there.
“I hope as the scheme becomes more popular people will know they have a hot meal waiting. The people who receive them are so shocked and grateful.”
Visitors to the cafe can donate £5 for a hot meal and drink, or £1 for a drink.
Local charity Helping Hands, which supports homeless and vulnerable people in the area have been supporting the scheme and have even been contacted by other cafes across the district keen to start a similar project.
Charity co-ordinator Lianne Kirkman said: “Staff at Mashed Swedes cafe have supported the charity before by supplying bacon butties after our sponsored sleep out at the end of last year.
“Suspended meals for the homeless is a great idea and well needed in Leamington. We need as many people as possible to spread this fabulous news about the cafe, which will help vulnerable and homeless people in the town.”
The Observer recently reported increasing concern at the sharp rise in begging on town centre streets in Leamington, and on calls not to give money but to give food or hot drinks instead.
Sophie is now looking at setting up an online donation page where people can help fund meals for those who need them.
Visit www.facebook.com/mashedswedesleamington to find out more.