Grassroots football tackling lockdown food poverty

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Fans Supporting Foodbanks is tackling food poverty

Amateur football teams will continue to support foodbanks despite not being able to play through lockdown.

The lack of fans at Everton and Liverpool matches since March has led to a shortfall in donations made to groups such as Fans Supporting Foodbanks who have relied on the goodwill of supporters at Anfield and Goodison where they collect donations for foodbanks across the region.

Instead, Merseyside clubs ranging from kids teams to open age have started bringing food parcels to their games to be delivered to foodbanks in a bid to help the cause.

As England was put into national lockdown this week, all grassroots sport has been forced to stop until at least December 2.

Liverpool Business Houses League side AFC Barnham have been collecting for foodbanks throughout October and are determined to continue supporting those who need it most.

First team manager, Dean Mannion said: “With fans not being allowed into the stadiums, there is a massive black hole there that needs to be filled.

“When we started this four weeks ago, I didn’t for one-minute think we could fill that void but, seeing all the other teams in our league get involved, I think there is a possibility we could have done it.

“We’re really disappointed that the season has been curtailed. Not being able to play severely hinders our collections. We are trying to come up with ways in which we can still raise food or funds for the foodbank, but these ideas are very much in their infancy.”

Labour MP for Liverpool West Derby and Co-founder of Fans Supporting Foodbanks, Ian Byrne has recognised the impact of Covid-19 on food parcel donations and is grateful for the support of the region’s amateur clubs.

He said: “The pandemic has had a huge impact on the matchday collections which were accounting for around 30% of all donations to North/South Liverpool foodbanks.

“The amateur football leagues have always been hugely supportive, but over this last month they have really got involved. We will be building on these links in the coming months and building a system across the city so collections can take place in every community due to the increased need we will face.”

A report from anti-hunger charity The Trussell Trust forecasts a 61% increase in food parcels needed across the UK, averaging at around six parcels given out every minute by December. The report adds that around half of the people who are now using food banks through the pandemic had never previously needed one.

Dave Kelly, chairman of Fans Supporting Foodbanks is not surprised by the ‘humbling’ spirit of the Merseyside football community but also urges everyone to help out if they can.

He said: “It’s not come as a shock to me – not in this city. It’s really humbling turning up to playing fields across Merseyside and seeing amateur teams donate to foodbanks.

“People automatically assume Fans Supporting Food Banks is a football initiative and it really isn’t. The term ‘fans’ is used quite loosely. It can be fans of anything. Anyone can help out.”

About Calum Snell