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Fighting holiday hunger: a team effort by football fans

In the footballing world of plenty, fans have been doing their bit to help foodbanks. Liam Geraghty finds out how they’re keeping shelves stacked when the season’s over.

Think of the Premier League and you think of a world far removed from holiday hunger.

The richest league in the world, as it is dubbed, usually sees the summer off-season months dominated with multimillion-pound transfer fees exchanged for new players.

Meanwhile, three million children suffer from holiday hunger every summer in Britain – when their parents cannot afford to pay for the extra meal a day while their kids are off school and so miss out on free meals.

But the loss of Premier League matches coinciding with the school summer holidays can act as a double whammy for foodbanks, which are already struggling to stock their shelves.

Football supporters up and down the country – from Rangers and Celtic to several clubs in the north of England and Arsenal and Charlton in London – have begun collecting for foodbanks habitually.

Take the Newcastle United fans who collect for the biggest foodbank in the country, Newcastle West End, for example.

NUFC Fans Foodbanks collect grub from fans who head to a home match at St James’ Park every other week, generating an incredible £2,000 of food per match. 

Stuart Latimer from the group told The Big Issue: “You have 50,000 fans donating every week, there is definitely a great downturn when that goes away. 

“I didn’t know much about the foodbank and holiday hunger until I got involved with our campaign but it didn’t take me long to see what was happening and I couldn’t believe the reality for many people in Newcastle.”

As well as accepting donations at the city’s Grainger Market on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the fans group have also launched a text donation service.

And charity Toon Aid also support the foodbank with sales of jerseys, T-shirts and hoodies in the club’s famous black and white stripes.

They’re not alone. Fans Supporting Foodbanks (FSF) have the support of Premier League giants Liverpool and Everton and spearheaded the fan model in 2015 that was later adopted in Newcastle and beyond.

Working under the motto of ‘hunger doesn’t wear club colours’, the group sees supporters’ groups unite across Liverpool’s Stanley Park to feed the hungry on Merseyside. They receive around one tonne of food per matchday at Anfield or Goodison Park, with the group’s warehouses left packed as a result.

When the football ends for the summer, the group run breakfast clubs as well as ‘Scouse Days’ in Fazakerley, serving up the local dish alongside training to allow families to cook on a budget. 

FSF’s Dave Kelly is clear that the club connection is key to mobilising each fanbase – not just in Liverpool but around the world as well. He said: “One of the big advantages we’ve got is that we belong to two of the biggest families on Merseyside: the families of Evertonians and Liverpudlians.

 “Just because people see that as something that is attached to the football club that they love they will go that extra mile. 

“We have always run our campaign on the basis that there is a humanitarian crisis on the streets of every major town and city in the country. That crisis is reaching epidemic proportions and that is being impacted on even more now with things like Universal Credit.”

You can support NUFC Fans Foodbank by texting a donation to 88802

Fans Supporting Foodbanks can be reached on Facebook.

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