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2 August 2016, 12:36
A sandwich shop chain which helps the homeless has received £550,000 from the Big Lottery Fund to expand its work across Scotland.
Social Bite, which has cafes in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, employs and supports homeless people and 100% of its profits go to charity.
The new funding is the biggest single donation the chain has received since being set up by Josh Littlejohn and Alice Thompson in 2012.
Social Bite was in the spotlight last November when Hollywood star George Clooney paid a visit to the Edinburgh Rose Street branch to launch an appeal to help the homeless and fund an aid convoy to refugee camps across Europe.
In June, the Duchess of Cornwall visited the shop, and staff are also expected to welcome Oscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio later this year.
The Big Lottery Fund cash will go towards running the Social Bite Academy, which has been set up to support the business model of employing a quarter of its staff from homeless backgrounds, as well as on extending opening hours to feed more homeless people.
The academy will offer a paid four-year course aimed at breaking the cycle of homelessness by providing support ranging from social integration, housing help, skills training and work experience, with each student gaining paid employment in Social Bite or a commercial partner.
Maureen McGinn, chair of Big Lottery Fund Scotland, said: "This life-changing money will help Social Bite support people in Scotland's three main cities who are facing challenging circumstances.
"From a simple gesture such as giving a free hot meal through to providing training and volunteering opportunities in a high street business for those who need them most, it's a truly innovative project which transforms life chances.''
Mr Littlejohn said the funding will be a "boost'' for the business and the people it helps.
"At Social Bite we have spent the last four years employing people from backgrounds of homelessness and that's not been without its challenges,'' he said.
"Our academy programme means we can put everything we've learned into improving our system and thanks to the Big Lottery, we will be able to get even more people off the streets and into employment.''