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POWER OF FOOTBALL: Fans Supporting Foodbanks

 

It's a bitterly cold and wet night outside Goodison Park ahead of Everton's clash with Arsenal on a late Monday night in December.

Everton are on a miserable run of form under Rafa Benitez, including losing the Merseyside Derby in disappointing fashion in their last game.

Rumours swirl of a protest - some fans are talking about leaving the game early to show their anger towards the club's ownership and board of directors.

There's much division in the ranks amongst Evertonians, whether it be regarding the protest, the manager or the January transfer window.

However, there's one unifying figure on Winslow Street.

The Fans Supporting Foodbanks (FSF) van is parked up at the top of the street, right outside the Goodison Road stand, as it is every matchday - whether it be Goodison or Anfield.

Thousands of supporters wander by, with some dropping off donations of food, toiletries and even cash to help their local community.

The volunteers on hand are wrapped up warm and in good spirits considering they've been pelted with rain since arriving three hours ahead of kick-off.

One of whom is Dave Kelly, the chair of the FSF, who greets me with a joke and a smile before giving me a few minutes of his time for a chat.

He's an Evertonian through and through and he knows I'm a Liverpool fan from a chat earlier in the week, so he makes loud and clear who my allegiances lay with as thousands of Everton fans walk by. Talk about throwing somebody under the bus!

Dave is a trade unionist and after seeing the rise in foodbank use throughout the city of Liverpool, he knew something had to be done.

"We decided to start doing foodbank collections using football as a vehicle, using the great contacts we've got from both sides of (Stanley) Park," Dave tells me as people continue to drop donations behind him despite the wet weather.

"We're at the time of year where people are more generous than ever, however, the need and the demand are becoming ever greater as well.

"For the first time in the six years we've been operating, we're now already dipping into the reserves.

"From the New Year through to Easter, you get less and less donations."

Dave and his gang at Fans Supporting Foodbanks are there all season long, one of which includes Ian Byrne - the Member of Parliament for Liverpool West Derby.

Ian is a Liverpool fan, but that means nothing when it comes to helping the community. Ian repeats the Fans Supporting Foodbanks slogan throughout our chat - Hunger Doesn't Wear Club Colours.

Like Dave, Ian has not only helped the Liverpool community but played a part in building a national network of foodbank collections at football grounds across the country.

That includes across the M62 at Manchester City and Manchester United, as well as Newcastle United to name but three.

As an MP, Ian is working to introduce a Right To Food law through parliament which would give the government an obligation to end food poverty for the 11 million in the United Kingdom who experience insecurity when it comes to food.

So why football games for foodbank collections? Ian and Dave both sing of the same hymn sheet when asked.

"We knew the power of football supporters coming together can be hugely influential within communities," Ian says.

"It just felt like a perfect fit. Most people in Liverpool are football fans, so we're really sending that message out and pulling everyone together under this premise of Hunger Doesn't Wear Club Colours."

Dave tells us the importance of each fan bringing just a can of food to the game, adding "There's 40-thousand Blues here, 50-thousand Reds at Anfield next week. I can guarantee you, one single kid wouldn't go to bed hungry if we done (sic) that every week."

If you do happen to be at a game of football, make it part of your routine to drop some food or toiletries off. Not just over Christmas, but year-round.

The cost might be minimal to you but for your local community, it could be the difference between a child going hungry or not.


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