Female Co-Founder of Social Bite Recognised with Medal

The Perth-based Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) presented their prestigious Livingstone Medal to Alice Thompson last night, the less-recognised but equally impressive co-founder of Social Bite. It was awarded for her instrumental role in establishing the now famous social enterprise in Scotland, tackling homelessness and raising the profile of the issue in the country.

Josh Littlejohn, Social Bite’s other co-founder picked up the same award at a private reception in November.

 The Livingstone Medal is named in Honour of David Livingstone, the famed missionary who worked to address inequality in parts of Africa during the 19th Century. And since the award was bequeathed in 1901, it has developed an incredible heritage of its own, becoming one of the Society’s most prestigious honours.

 As such, Alice’s name will be added to an illustrious list of previous Livingstone Medallists including Ernest Shackleton, Edmund Hillary, Neil Armstrong and, more recently, Annie Lennox and Mary Robinson.

 Commenting on the award Alice said:

 “I want to thank the RSGS from the bottom of my heart for this incredible recognition. It’s particularly special to be recognised as the lesser-known, younger and female co-founder of Social Bite. Though we, of course, don't do the work we do for awards, it truly leaves a profound feeling of unity and support to receive such a prestigious Medal.”

 Founded in 2012, Social Bite began life as a small sandwich chain in Edinburgh. But it was no ordinary sandwich chain – as customers bought their food they could “pay forward” a meal for a homeless person to collect later. It was good food for a good cause.

 From these humble but thoughtful beginnings, Social Bite has gone from strength to strength, focussing the national spotlight on this important social issue, one meal at a time.

 Today, the charitable enterprise comprises a high-end restaurant in Edinburgh with the same “pay it forward” ethos as the sandwich shops. And a large proportion of their staff are now made up of people who have, in the past, directly experienced homelessness. Social Bite has also developed a supported village in Edinburgh to allow 20 homeless people each year to find their feet and begin a journey back into society. And, of course, it also runs regular “Sleep Outs” in cities across Scotland to fund their charitable aims.

 Reflecting on her exciting journey with Social Bite, Alice commented: 

 “From a life-changing trip to Bangladesh, to painting our first shop, to employing our first ever person suffering from homelessness, and the incredible array of projects Social Bite is now responsible for – our journey has been a whirlwind of false starts, long days and ignoring the word ‘no’ repeatedly, which has been both challenging and great fun!”

 But she also made a point of celebrating her long-time business partner, Josh Littlejohn:

 “My co-founder Josh is something of a crazy genius. He has brought me great inspiration and support over the years – and I hope I have for him too.”

 Commenting on the award, Mike Robinson, Chief Executive of the RSGS said:

 “Through the offer of food, training, jobs and accommodation, Social Bite has helped break the cycle of exclusion faced by many homeless people, and done it in a way which provides respect and protects their dignity. But, perhaps more importantly, Social Bite has forced the issue of homelessness up the political agenda and made us all reconsider our response to this age-old problem.

 “We’re delighted to be able to celebrate Alice’s contribution to this wonderful enterprise, and I hope this recognition will encourage her in her next adventures. We look forward to working with her as she continues to promote and enact positive changes across Scotland.”

Photo: Alice Thompson receiving her award in the Explorers’ Room in the Perth-based headquarters of the RSGS.


Abigail Shepherd