Fans Supporting Foodbanks: Red and Blues Unified

Fans Supporting Foodbanks was established in 2015 by Liverpool fan, Ian Byrne and Everton fan, Dave Kelly, with the slogan, Hunger Doesn’t Wear Club Colours. Here are the stories of some of those involved.

I also asked for the views of bestselling author, Jeff Goulding and Everton legend, Neville Southall.

Simon Huthwaite’s Story, Foodbanks Ops Manager:
“Fans Supporting Foodbanks (FSF) was started at the end of 2014 with just a collection bucket and a wheely bin.

“FSF only started to really take off when the clubs got involved in 2016 collecting at both Anfield and Goodison Park three hours before every game with various collection points around the ground.

“Any food that gets collected is then redistributed around North Liverpool by North Liverpool Foodbank (a Trussel trust foodbank).”

“We get fans from all across the UK coming to donate when watching their teams. When we first started we never expected it to take off as it has done with many other football teams also getting on board. Newcastle being the biggest one with them having the biggest Foodbank in the country it was vital for them.”

“I have been a volunteer with North Liverpool Foodbank since 2014 and have been involved from the very start, it is great because I get see where the food comes from and then see the clients we support walking out with a smile on their face feeling human again at the other end.”

The food that FSF collect now equates to 20% of all North Liverpool’s food income per year. Last December it’s estimated that over 4 tonnes of food was collected.

It is a shame that we have to do this now but without the FSF collections, the foodbank would be in a much poorer state than it currently is.

Some statistics; Food collected by FSF 2016 – 6,761Kg
Food collected by FSF 2017 – 12,361Kg
Food collected by FSF 2018 so far – 12,363Kg!

This season’s collection so far will feed over 600 individuals and has a financial value of over £21,500.

Ian Byrne’s Story, Spirit of Shankley:
Ian Byrne is a Labour councilor for Everton and is one of the founders of the successful charitable organisation Fans Supporting Foodbanks and is also involved with the Spirit of Shankly Liverpool Supporters union. Here he explains how FSF (Fans Supporting Foodbanks) came about.

“Fan Supporting Foodbanks was an initiative started by Spirit of Shankly & Everton Supporters Trust three years ago in light of the food poverty epidemic enveloping our communities.”

“This was brought into stark realisation when myself and fellow cofounder, Dave Kelly of Everton Supporters Trust were shown a community foodbank and the paucity of the level of stock shocked us that this was happening in our communities due to political choices being made by the current government. Foodbanks have exploded since 2010 and advent of austerity. We came out and asked what we could do and the idea of FSF was born.”

“The idea was to encourage fans to donate food before the game at both Anfield & Goodison and help to encourage awareness and help to ensure the foodbanks in North Liverpool had more provision. We set up a partnership with Trussell Trust North Liverpool Foodbanks who had the expertise to distribute the food we collected and over the last three years have signed partnerships with both clubs to give us the ability to collect in the footprint of both stadiums at every match.

“We now collect over 20% of all donations to North Liverpool Foodbanks. This is staggering that football fans , that much maligned species are now contributing to aid our communities.”

“FSF has now grown throughout the country with many clubs including Newcastle, West Ham and Man Utd to Doncaster, Leeds and many more throughout the UK.

“We donate to all clubs who are part of FSF when we travel away and this demonstration of working class solidarity between fans is one of our proudest achievements.

“We now work throughout our communities in schools, churches, mosques and any organisation we feel can help spread our ethos of community solidarity mirroring our hashtag: #hungerdoesntwearclubcolours.

“We welcome all donations and you can drop off at Home baked, club shop and at our van next to the club zone on Anfield Road.

Almost 8,000 people used North Liverpool Foodbank during the last financial year. That figure is up to 4,800 already during the current financial year (since April). North Liverpool Foodbank is feeding 100 extra people per week.

Fans Supporting Foodbanks donations amounted to 20 per cent of North Liverpool Foodbank’s food income last year. This year, that has risen to 25 per cent.

Jeff Goulding, Author of bestselling books, ‘Red Odyssey Liverpool FC 1892-2017’ & ‘Stanley Park Story Life Love and the Merseyside Derby’ was asked about his views on the Foodbanks initiative:

“Football on Merseyside is not a matter of life and death, it’s far more important than that.” Those words, uttered by the legendary Bill Shankly, have resonated with fans of both persuasions for decades. It’s more than a typically pithy response from the great man, to an interviewers question. Instead it perfectly encapsulates the role football plays in the lived of the city’s people.”

“Of course, the actions of 11 men on a football field mean nothing compared with the flesh and blood of family. Hillsborough taught us that. But that’s not what Shanks meant. He was talking about the unifying ability of football. How it bonds people together in common purpose and solidarity. Shanks just got Liverpool and its people.

“It’s no surprise to me and wouldn’t be to him, that Scousers, Red or Blue, would rally round to help each other out in their time of need. Fans Supporting Foodbanks is the living embodiment of that spirit.”

Neville Southall, former Everton goalkeeper, with over 578 appearances for the Goodison Park club, also gave me his views on Fans Supporting Foodbanks:

“The city of Liverpool is divided into Red and Blue until people need help, then Reds and Blues lay their football rivalry behind them and care about the people of the city.”

“They show the same passion in donating food as they do on match days cheering their teams. The fans stick together through thick and thin and fight to look after their own. Reds and Blues are the best family any city could have.”

Robin McNamara

Former journalist Insight Magazine Dublin & published poet. Currently work at Cartamundi Ireland. Liverpool fan since I was 10. Slowly embracing blogging or whatever this is.⚽️👍🏼✨

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