Essential GCP – Part 1

Essential GCP – food for thought

In the first of a new Essential GCP series, we talk to Helene, our CEO, about the underlying factors which drive our work here at the Grassmarket Community Project.

We call this essential work, our social purpose.

By talking more about our social purpose, we can start to challenge some of the perceptions of why GCP is here, what we do and the people we support.

By helping others to understand the work we do, GCP raises awareness and engages with people at every level of society, so that we can continue to offer connection and a way forward to those who need it most.

GCP and how we evolve

When GCP was established in 2010, our main purpose was to provide food and opportunities for homeless people in Edinburgh.

Today, we do so much more than that.

In fact, most of the work we do is to prevent homelessness.

Members lunch at Grassmarket Community Centre

GCP’s Social Purpose

GCP’s social purpose is driven by two key questions:

  1. What can we do to stop people becoming homeless in the first place?
  2. How can we reach and help the people who are most likely to become homeless?

Poverty and homelessness

The overriding cause of homelessness is poverty. But what do we actually mean by poverty?

Helene explains,

‘I see it as being three pillars, food, social and financial poverty. If there is no intervention, if there’s no remedy to these three elements, this naturally means that any individual or family won’t have the money to have a home or enough food, or any engagement socially.

‘At GCP, our focus is to tackle all three pillars. We believe this is the most effective way that our organisation can help support people out of poverty and therefore reduce the risk of homelessness.’

Food poverty and food as a basic human right

It’s only relatively recently that the right to food has become enshrined as a basic human right.

What does that truly mean? It seems obvious but, given it’s taken this long for food to be seen as a human right, we asked Helene to spell it out,

‘Quite simply, if people aren’t getting enough food, they haven’t got the strength or will to live. Without enough food, we don’t have the ability to focus, learn, develop our skills, or work for living.

‘Let’s face facts, without food in your belly, you’re barely able to move!’

Food at GCP

So here at GCP, food is really important. We see it as an essential part of what we do to help tackle poverty and prevent homelessness.

Open Door Meals – every Wednesday from 5-6:30pm at the Grassmarket Centre, a two-course, freshly-prepared meal is served by our friendly team of GCP volunteers and staff. This service supports anyone who is experiencing homelessness, vulnerably housed or suffering from poverty or social exclusion. In 2023, GCP served 2126 meals, an average of 41 people per week.

Members Lunches – at GCP, we provide free lunches for all members, volunteers and staff. It is one of the most important things we do and is a highlight of our day. These meals give us all the sustenance, energy and therefore motivation to connect and engage.

In Part 2 of our Essential GCP series, we will look at Social Poverty and the importance of connection and engagement in helping lift people out of poverty and away from the risk of homelessness.

Fund and Sponsor GCP Member Activities

How to support GCP’s Social Purpose

Please help us to keep providing support and opportunities to vulnerable people. There are various ways you can support our community. You can donate, fund or sponsor, support our social enterprises and volunteer.

Donate >>   
Fund and Sponsor >>

Support our Social Enterprises

Wood Workshop >>
Tartan Shop >>
Event Hire Service >>
Visit Coffee Saints >>

AND follow, like and share on our Socials

Meanwhile, did you know?

GCP registered as a charity in 2010. We are not a religious organisation, but our origins go back to Greyfriars Kirk and its commitment to community and social justice. Food has always played an important part in this.

In the 1980s, members of the congregation established a soup kitchen, offering food and friendship to homeless people and those living in hostel accommodation. The struggle against poverty and exclusion goes all the way back to the 16th century Franciscan Friars (the original Grey Friars) who took vows of poverty and supported the poorest.

The Greyfriars Kirk Yard was an apothecary garden providing medicinal herbal remedies to the poor until the Reformation of 1560. Today, our Members tend the herb gardens throughout the Kirk Yard, reaping the many health benefits of working with nature.


The Grassmarket Community Project’s Members Programme relies on the generosity of our customers, funders and donors. Our key funders for this area of our work are Nationwide Community Grants, The Robertson Trust and EVOC/Scottish Government Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund. We thank them for their essential continued support.

Nationwide Building Society Community Grants
The Robertson Trust
EVOC logo
ScotGov Logo