As the 227th Merseyside Derby edges nearer, Everton and Liverpool supporters have put their rivalry to one side and teamed up to raise awareness of an initiative that goes beyond their Club colours.
A group of Merseyside football fans have all come together to call on fellow followers from both sides attending tonight's game to take any non-perishable food they can spare to any of the three drop-off points located around Goodison Park.
The Fans Supporting Foodbanks initiative, set up by local Everton and Liverpool supporters groups in conjunction with North Liverpool Foodbank, Anfield Breckside Community Centre, Unite in the Community and the Trussel Trust, has received the backing of both football clubs and other supporter groups. Ahead of each Everton and Liverpool FC matchday, volunteers from North Liverpool Foodbank are joined by supporters to help collect food donated by fans.
Both Everton and Liverpool Football Clubs have offered space to the fans led initiative in their respective FanZones.
A total of 3,191kg or 502 stone of food has been donated by fans of both clubs since collections started at Goodison Park and Anfield. The growing need for support for the city’s foodbanks have been highlighted in a recent report by the Trussell Trust which stated ‘2650 three-day emergency food supplies are provided to local people by 10 foodbanks during April – September 2016’. Of this number, 978 went to children. The report went on to conclude that the top three reasons for foodbank referrals were: benefit delay 34%; benefit change 24%; low income 19%.
Vicky Ponsonby, Foodbank Manager of North Liverpool Foodbank said: “Anybody could find themselves in need of the foodbank. Every week we meet local people like you or me, who have been hit by something unavoidable – such as illness, a delay in welfare payments or an unexpected bill - and are unable to afford food. It really is only with the community’s support that we’re able to provide vital emergency help when it most matters, and we’re constantly surprised and overwhelmed by local people’s generosity.
Nick Mernock Chair of the Everton Fans’ Forum said: “When Fans Supporting Foodbanks asked us to get involved with this initiative our members were really keen to support and volunteer. We spoke to the Club and alongside Fans Supporting Foodbanks wanted to make sure there was a permanent presence on a matchday. The motto of the Fans Supporting Foodbanks campaign states ‘hunger does not wear club colours’ and the dedication shown by fans from both sides of the park should be commended.”
Everton’s Head of Fan Services Gill Derbyshire added: “This initiative embodies the spirit of the city as both sets of fans come together for a worthy and altruistic cause. When we as a Club were asked to get involved we immediately offered up space in the Park End next to our FanZone to complement the collection points already in existence. We have been working with our Fans’ Forum as well as Fans Supporting Foodbanks for over eight months and the collections for each game keep getting bigger which is a credit to everyone."
There will be three collection points around the stadium with the Foodbank Van located in the Park End next to the FanZone. Donations can also be made at St Luke’s Church and The Winslow Pub on Goodison Road.
For supporters wishing to donate they are encouraged to bring dry products, such as rice or pasta, tinned products or packet products, such as breakfast cereals, biscuits, long life milk, fruit juice and sugar. Toiletries, and children’s nappies are also welcome.