Liverpool and Everton fans are coming together to tackle food poverty as the the cost-of-living crisis takes its toll on families across the country.
For the last seven years Fans Supporting Foodbanks has been collecting food donations outside Goodison Park and Anfield on matchdays. The partnership was made between the Blue Union and The Spirit of Shankly in 2015 in response to rising levels of food poverty in Merseyside as a result of austerity.
Dave Kelly, one of the founders of FSF, even travelled up to Newcastle to volunteer at Newcastle’s fan foodbank before Everton played on Tyneside.
“We thought that football was the perfect vehicle to use bearing in mind there’s 40,000 fans at Goodison and around 50,000 at Anfield.” He said.
Inflation in the UK currently stands at 10.1%, driven mostly by rising food prices. This is the highest inflation has been in 40 years. The current economic situation means less fans are donating to FSF, and more are using the service.
“Whereas previously fans would come with two or three bags they’re now coming with one bag. It’s a viscous circle of needing more and getting less.”
Pantry numbers, which according to Dave are the best way to gage demand for the foodbank, have gone up about 40% in the last couple of months. FSF are now feeding approximately 7000 families. Because of increased demand they are now having to become more innovative in how they collect food.
“For the last couple of weeks lots of schools have been donating to us.
“We’ve started doing gigs when bands and musicians are playing in Liverpool.”
Liverpool is well known for its community spirit and there has been a history of solidarity with the working class of the city. Next week, Liverpool’s dock workers walking out on strike over pay.
“I think it’s probably more renowned for this than any other city, and in times of adversity they can come together and go that extra mile.”
This solidarity can be seen running through both football clubs. Everton and Liverpool fans famously came together following the Hillsborough disaster, and Dave still sees this empathy in fans today.
“Supporters after the game clearly get it, and it’s refreshing, because you’ll get people who’ve just donated previously on a matchday scenario now are actually doing collections in the workplace or in the social clubs they belong to.”
FSF supplies a quarter of all donations to north Liverpool food banks, though Dave is in no way content with this. In his view foodbanks should cease to exist and systemic change is required to address food poverty. Ian Byrne, Labour MP for Liverpool West Derby, has worked closely with Dave, and together they are working on the “right too food” campaign. The initiative aims to make access to food a legal right for all. This would be ensured through policies, such as universal free school meals and community kitchens.
“If every fan donated one tin, that’s always the ultimate goal, if you work together collectively and donate one tin you will probably eradicate food poverty on Merseyside. The only way that’s actually going to happen to be honest with you is by the government implementing the right to food.
“Enshrine the right to food into law and you could eradicate food poverty with the stroke of a pen.”
Dave isn’t hopeful of this happening anytime soon given the current state of parliament. He predicts a sharp rise in food poverty in the coming months, putting further strain on FSF.
“I think the demands on us are going to become ever greater, even if we manage to struggle through the winter to April, it just doesn’t even bare thinking about what’s going to happen in April once the fuel cap has been removed.
“It’s not just the case now of eat or heat, most people now who are vulnerable aren’t able to do either.”
Football can provide relief amid difficult times for families. Without people like Dave, and other fan initiatives, it’s possible that many more millions of people would be failing to keep up with the cost-of-living.