We spent a day with Fans Supporting Foodbanks and left feeling truly inspired
2 years ago
It started with a few tins of food in a wheelie bin outside Goodison Park and Anfield, now Fans Supporting Foodbanks collects a tonne of goods at every match.
The football fans from both sides of Stanley Park have recently inspired supporters in Scotland to run collections outside grounds in Dundee and Glasgow.
And they are partners in a movement calling for the right to food to be enshrined into legislation in the UK Parliament to end hunger and the need for food banks once and for all.
From humble beginnings, the fans have become one of the busiest and most important community outreach organisations in the city.
The Guide Liverpool joined the volunteers on a busy day outside Goodison Park.
The banter is flying and there are big smiles all round at the purple van pulled up on the corner of Goodison Road and the Park End stand.
This group of football fans, Reds and Blues, are busy filling up crates with tins of beans, boxes of tea bags, jars of coffee and boxes of cereal being handed over by passing fans.
“Here’s a bag of toiletries,”says a donor handing over a bursting carrier bag. “I hope that’s alright.” The bag is gratefully received with a thank you. Everything is welcome here if it will help a fellow Scouser in need.
Plans are being hatched for Saturday’s match at Anfield when Liverpool take on Bournemouth.
There is going to be a Rodeo Bull outside Hotel Anfield, £2 a go, all proceeds for Fans Supporting Foodbanks.
Group founder Dave Kelly is deciding which of the volunteers will be trying it out first.
It’s like being with a bunch of mates enjoying an afternoon out. But behind all the laughing there is something really serious happening here.
“We had 103 members at our pantry in West Derby on Friday,” Dave tells me when I ask him if things are getting worse. “That is around double what it used to be.”
Things are getting scary as the cost of living crisis starts to bite. But this group is determined to do something to help.
All the food collected on match days is taken to St Andrew’s Community Network and distributed to 15 north Liverpool foodbanks.
In addition to that service, the pantries have grown up over the city.There are now six running Tuesday to Friday.
The concept is simple: you join, pay £3.50 when you attend and you can select 10 everyday essentials, plus fresh meat, fruit and vegetables. There is also a free table for surplus stock. There is no judgement. In fact there is a tongue in cheek sign at one pantry that reads: Shoplifters won’t be prosecuted.
The food for the pantries mainly comes from FareShare, the UK’s national network of charitable food redistributors. It’s also supplemented by the food collected at Goodison and Anfield when necessary.
Back on the van, the volunteers have noticed more of the supermarket value brands being donated and where some people used to bring two bags, now they might now only manage one, but that is fine. People giving what they can is the essence of what they do.
Dave said he has noticed more young fans turning up with a tin in their pocket.
Imagine if every one of almost 40,000 crowd donated one tin of soup? What a haul that would be.
When you spend even a few minutes with the volunteers their warmth rubs off on you.
Dave takes us over to meet the newest addition to the Everton Fanzone, Homebaked Bakery, the award winning community bakers with a strong commitment to the area and its people.
They have worked in partnership with Fans Supporting Foodbanks for some time and Dave is keen for us to try one of their pies. The Vegan Scouse is delicious and it’s great to be supporting a local business with a keen community spirit.
Everton legend Colin Harvey had called at the collection van not long before we arrived to hand over his regular bag of shopping. The group named him and ex-Liverpool CEO Peter Moore Honorary Life Presidents two years ago in recognition of their commitment to the cause.
But this group isn’t about celebrities and stars, it’s about the founders Dave, West Derby MP Ian Byrne, Robbie Daniels and the countless volunteers who turn up come rain or shine on match days and at the pantries.
On Saturday one of their best, ten-year-old Lilly, was named Toffee Lady by Everton in the Community in recognition of the fact she’s helped out at the pantries during her summer holidays.
She insisted on wearing a Fans Supporting Foodbanks badge during her special day.
What an inspiration.
Where you can find a pantry:
Tuesday: Fazakerley Community Federation.
Wednesday: Netherley Youth and Community Centre
Thursday: The Blue Base at Goodison, and the Greenhouse Project, Lodge Lane.
Friday: The Millennium Centre in West Derby and Vauxhall Neighbourhood Centre.
Saturday: Homebaked Bakery in Anfield is a regular drop off point.
Follow @SFoodbanks and #RightToFood on Twitter
Donate to Fans Supporting Foodbanks at Flag Pole Corner at Anfield on Saturday and at the Goodison derby on 3rd September at the end of Goodison Road by the Fanzone.