“Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper…”
So goes the popular saying, proclaiming breakfast the most important meal of the day.
Having a hearty meal, or even a strong cup of tea or coffee, is a good way to get a boost in the mornings. This is no less true for street paper vendors.
In Liverpool, England, a simple but effective project is bringing vendors and staff together over breakfast, and making sure vendors have enough energy for the workday ahead.
The Big Issue North‘s breakfast club takes place Monday to Friday in the street paper’s reception area, which is usually a hive of activity in the mornings as vendors come in to purchase their magazines to sell that day.
“We open at 8am and vendors are keen to buy magazines and be on their pitch nice and early for their customers,” explained vendor co-ordinator Daniel Achim.
He adds that the idea came from vendors and staff a few years ago and has proved a good way for both groups to socialise.
“It helps break down some barriers between people and encourages a little bit of conversation and brings people together,” he explained.
“We like to make sure tea and coffee is available to vendors where possible, especially for those who had been rough sleeping and need to warm up. It ensures that they go out warmed up and not on an empty stomach.”
Big Issue North vendor Morely Cummings regularly volunteers at the club, offering tea and toast to his fellow vendors. “The breakfast club is good for the vendors to be able to have a hot drink and some food before they go out to work,” he said.
Fellow vendor Joe Gaskill added: “I love the breakfast club, the atmosphere is great and the friendly welcome you get is brilliant. Morley does a great job volunteering.”
Big Issue North encourages vendors to volunteer to help run the breakfast club.
“Part of this is firstly to get a food safety hygiene certificate,” explained Daniel. “This not only gives them confidence and knowledge, it also can lead to them volunteering elsewhere and can lead to job opportunities in catering.
“If they volunteer with us we are then able to provide references for them when they apply for jobs. It can be just the thing that helps someone to move on in their life.”
Gavin James has sold Big Issue North in Liverpool for more than two years. In that time, he has saved up enough money to move into a new flat with his girlfriend.
“Selling the magazine allows me to earn my own money and I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile,” he said.
He also helps out at the breakfast club, and hopes the experience might help him find a job and pursue his love of cooking.
“I serve coffee, tea and toast to other vendors and help keep the area clean and tidy. I enjoy doing it,” he explained.
“The staff in the Big Issue North office recently helped me complete my Food Hygiene Certificate, so I could use that for other jobs if I wanted. I have always been interested in cooking since I was a kid. I like cooking. I make a good boiled chicken at home.”