11th November 2023
The Big Breakfast Plus Swindon – feeding the hungry in Swindon since 1993. And now doing it seven days a week! What follows is an account of a typical Big Breakfast Plus volunteer shift.
Follow this link to make either a one-off donation for a regular monthly contribution.
It’s 7am and the cafe area of The Pilgrim Centre is already a hive of activity. The Wednesday team at Big Breakfast Plus Swindon are busy preparing for the arrival of the guests.
In the kitchen, the cook is preparing bacon and sausages. Meanwhile beans and tinned tomatoes are heating in the microwave, and the six-slice toaster is churning out toast.
Outside, the front of house are setting up tables, sorting cereals, squash and preparing to start making teas, coffees and hot chocolate. At 7.30 the doors open and the initial rush is on. Guests get their cereal and drinks and find a table and we take orders.
The queen of the pass lets the rest of the team know what she needs: three eggs on plates; two eggs in a takeaway box; double scrambled eggs. It’s all plated up and delivered to the guests at their tables. The standard full breakfast consists of sausage, bacon, beans, tomatoes, egg and toast. By 8am, the team have served around thirty guests.
Preferences catered for
At the Big Breakfast Plus Swindon we cater for guests’ preferences. No tomatoes is the most common request but also extra bacon or sausage or extra toast. There are also vegetarian and gluten free options. This week, there isn’t any fancy bread (donated by supermarkets) so there’s no posh toast. After 8am, things slow down a bit. Some guests linger to chat, have another cup of tea or coffee.
There may be time to prepare things for the next day. The milk delivery arrives and the sausage women drops off another box of sausages. By 8.45am it’s onto takeaways with people drifting in. Then, just before 9am the last two orders go out – sausages and beans as the bacon has run out.
At 9am the doors shut, the last guests disappear and the team finish tidying up. We clean the kitchen down and wipe the tables. We clean the toilets leaving everything spick and span for Thursday.
The shift has fed sixty-four guests, about average for a Wednesday at the moment. That equates to around 100 sausages, 100 bits of bacon and 100 rounds of toast, as well as seventy-five eggs, fifteen cans of beans and twelve cans of tomatoes. The shift also got through eight litres of milk.
In September 2023, Big Breakfast served 1506 breakfasts, compared to 871 in September 2022.
Big Breakfast Plus is a charity that provides a free hot breakfast to those in need. It started out in 1993 as the Broadgreen Breakfast Club. Following the COVID pandemic, Big Breakfast reopened in the Pilgrim Centre in January 2021.
It now opens 7 days a week.
For more information on Big Breakfast Plus and how to help https://bigbreakfastplus.org.uk/
Chris, who has been volunteering since earlier this year said, ‘I love my Wednesday morning shift. It’s great to be part of this team. We have a lot of fun as well as making sure we give all our guests a pleasant experience and a full tummy.’
Angela, the shift lead, said, ‘As lead volunteer, my role is to assign tasks to ensure the smooth running of the service. This is an easy job with the Wednesday team as they all fit together like a well oiled machine. They’re a terrific group of people who work their socks off to provide breakfast in a calm, welcoming atmosphere. As our guest numbers have increased, they’ve taken the extra work in their stride and continued to create a warm, safe place. I feel lucky to be part of such a great team and leave every Wednesday service with a smile of my face and spring in my step.’
Wayne, the service co-ordinator, said, ‘At Big Breakfast Plus we provide a warm welcome and a safe space for our guests to have a freshly cooked free breakfast. We pride ourselves on providing a non-judgemental service and are open to anyone who is struggling or in need of some hot food. As service co-ordinator, I’m responsible for organising our fifty fantastic volunteers.
I’m so inspired by the volunteers who give up their spare time to help others. We’re lucky to have the support of Zurich Community Trust, 10 greenbottles and Helen Brownings – who provide us with vital financial grants and food supplies. When we move to 7 day opening in November, we are going to be serving a whopping 400 breakfasts a week.’