Liverpool and Everton fans came together to tackle food poverty on derby day, amid the growing cost of living crisis.

The day was characterised by hostility and rivalry on the pitch.

However, tribalism was put aside off the pitch as both sets of supporters collected for North Liverpool Foodbank.

From Birkenhead to Walton Hall Park via Anfield

Fans Supporting Foodbanks, a joint initiative between Liverpool supporters’ group Spirit of Shankly and Everton’s Blue Union, were present at three games across the day.

They began collections at 9am outside Prenton Park, where Liverpool Women lifted the FA Women’s Championship title.

By 1.30pm they had setup outside Anfield ahead of the Merseyside Derby.

After the full-time whistle, both reds and blues made their way to Walton Hall Park to collect donations at Everton Women’s clash with Arsenal.

Ian Byrne, co-founder of Fans Supporting Foodbanks and MP for Liverpool West Derby, praised the effort of his fellow volunteers.

He said: “Today is a big day for us because the collection is so needed.

“We’ve got such a fantastic group of volunteers who believe in what we’re doing.

“They believe in the ethos of Fans Supporting Foodbanks and we all come together.

“Today (Sunday) started at 9am over the water where we’ve got a feeding shelter in Birkenhead which fed a hundred people this morning.

“We had a fantastic collection at the Liverpool women’s game.

“The derby will obviously be big as well and we’ve got Everton ladies who are playing Arsenal later. It’s a testament to the volunteers.”

Fans Supporting Foodbanks banner outside Anfield

Dave Kelly, the group’s chair and other co-founder, agreed they had come a long way from collecting donations in a wheelie bin in October 2015.

“We have gone from collecting food in a wheelie bin to collecting, on average, a ton of food at every first team game,” he said.

“So, we’ve come a long way in the seven years we’ve been doing this.

“We’ve got a mixed group here today, reds and blues.

“Nobody here has any intention of being tribal until 4.30pm.

“Then we’ll be incredibly tribal for 90 minutes before exiting Anfield and going over to Walton Hall Park to do another collection for the Everton-Arsenal game.

“Again, that will be reds and blues and that’s the beauty of it.

“I think we’ve always emphasised, this isn’t charity, this is what working class communities do. This is solidarity.”

The impact of the cost of living crisis

The work of Fans Supporting Foodbanks has perhaps never been more important.

The cost of living is rising sharply in the UK, forcing more people into food poverty.

The Consumer Prices Index rose by 7% from March 2021 to March 2022.

The increase from February 2022 to March 2022 was 1.1%, compared to 0.3% during the same time period last year.

Meanwhile, the annual Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs rose by 6.2%.

The cost of household services grew by 1.49 percentage points while transport costs were up by 1.47.

Since then, OFGEM raised the energy price cap by 54% from April 1.

This has caused energy bills to rise by between £693 and £708 per year for UK households.

Mr Byrne claims the cost of living crisis is having a massive impact on foodbank usage in the community.

He said: “Last year we fed 40,000 people in the community.

“This year we’ll have to open an extra two pantries over the next couple of months.

“The gate is going up because the cost of living crisis is effecting so many different people.

“It’s effecting huge swathes of the community, everyone is affected by the cost of living crisis.

“What we’re seeing now is unbelievable. The need means foodbanks are running out of food, so the collections are hugely important.”

Andrew Forsey, the National Director of Feeding Britain, agreed that there has been “an increase in the number of people using foodbanks in recent weeks.”

Mr Forsey also claimed those who required foodbanks or pantries were now using them more regularly.

“Where they might have come once a month they are now coming once a week”, he said.

“There has also been an increase in the quantity of food they are taking… my feeling is the worst is yet to come.”

A long-term problem

Foodbank usage in the UK had increased massively even prior to the cost of living crisis.

In the five financial years before the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of emergency food parcels distributed by The Trussell Trust almost doubled from 1,091,282 to 1,906,625.

During the 2020/21 financial year, the impact of the pandemic saw this rise to over 2.5 million food parcels. 120,521 food parcels were distributed to children in the North West region during this period.

Food parcels distributed by the Trussell Trust, 2014-2021

Mr Kelly feels the pandemic has exacerbated a long-term issue in the community.

He added: “When we went into lockdown we were collecting 30% of the food that’s donated to the north Liverpool Foodbank.

“So, when the football went into lockdown, there was a massive void that needed to be filled. 233 consecutive games, then nothing, a big black hole.”

Mr Kelly has also noticed a change in the demographic of foodbanks users, as a result of the loss of income for those placed on the furlough scheme.

“Coming out of the pandemic, the demographic of people who are using foodbanks or food pantries has changed dramatically.

“When we started off in 2015, it would predominantly be homeless people or people who were getting migrated over from benefits to universal credit.

“Now the vast majority of people who are using our pantries are actually in full time work, paying mortgages and living in detached houses.

“For nearly two years people were furloughed who had got a mortgage on the basis that they earn x amount of money. In one foul swoop that was reduced to 80%.

“I never thought I’d see the day when people are queuing up for the pantry who live in a three-bedroom semi-detached house. That’s what happening now.”

Beyond the sticking plaster

Going forwards, the aim for Mr Byrne is to make access to food a legal right for all through the right to food campaign.

He added: “As well as doing this, which is a sticking plaster, we’ve got the right to food campaign which I’m leading on in parliament.

“We’ve got a grassroots campaign which is pushing it and that’s how we’ll get where we need to go.

“Millions of football supporters will come behind us and demand the right to food and that’s what all this is.

“It’s all part of a jigsaw to affect change in this country and fight the injustice of what we are seeing, because poverty is an injustice and poverty is also a political choice.”

For Mr Kelly, the key remains unity over tribalism.

“I don’t mind being tribal for ninety minutes just like most fans.

“But we will never do what we’re attempting to do without doing it together… unity is strength.”

Fans Supporting Foodbanks will be at Flagpole Corner outside the Kenny Dalglish Stand before Liverpool home games.

Alternative collection points are the Anfield superstore on Walton Breck Road and Homebaked Bakery on Oakfield Road.

The collection point for Everton home matches is the Wilmslow Hotel and Pub on Goodison Road.

Donations can also be made by texting FOODBANKFC TO 70460.

Those experiencing food poverty can seek help from North Liverpool Foodbank here.

(All images credited to Jason Hughes for Merseysportlive)