Words by Donna Sculley, volunteer.
Dave Kelly, Ian Byrne MP and Robby Daniels are the co-founders, the brains and hearts behind Fans Supporting Foodbanks (FSB) in Liverpool. They organise collections of food and essentials before every home game at Liverpool and Everton Football Clubs, and they are now spreading the work around UK, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It's great to see more and more football fans & communities coming together to support their own. Their aim is simple, that no child, no family goes to bed hungry in Liverpool and beyond, tonight or any night.
The idea at FSB is really simple. Fans are encouraged to bring one can of food, or a packet of food with them and drop it off to the now-permanent collection point at the ground ahead of the game. It works, every time, because there is a real sense of community, particularly in Liverpool where all this started. We look out for each other, all of us in the same boat, with pride in where we live, and where we come from – and we do stand together. The motto is, football ticket, scarf & foodbank donation!
FSB works in partnership with local companies that share excess stock or food that would otherwise go to waste. They take this and the collected food to pantries across the city and also supply The Sunday Breakfast Club at the Charles Thompson Mission in Birkenhead. This is where I come in.
I jointly (with my company, Carpenters Group) set up the Sunday Breakfast Club and it has been going now for years. I do it because it is the best two hours of my week. My Sunday morning volunteers and people using the Club bring so much to my life.
People at Sunday Breakfast Club are struggling to survive – homeless, or insecure accommodation, dealing with all many of challenges that would absolutely floor the rest of us – but they keep going, finding a way through. The Club is a place that they can find a hot breakfast, company and a laugh on Sunday morning – where for 2 hours, everyone that goes there can forget their problems and, as I say everyone because that’s me included.
My background is a basic one in Dublin Inner City. I was one of the lucky ones as when my Dad died when I was 7 and my Mammy suffered severe mental illness, I didn’t have to go into care – because my Granny stepped in and looked after my brother and I. I was so close to having a totally different life and this reality keeps me doing this and understanding the predicaments I see on Sundays. There is a very fine line between being ok and being not ok and through luck and love, I am on the right side of it. I can’t forget those on the other side of the line because – I am them; they are me.
At the Club I am on front of house – Robby is the chef, and he doesn’t let me in the kitchen! He knows I would cause chaos as I can't even make toast properly - I burn it every time. My job is to welcome our guests, ask them to take a table and that I will be there to take their order. Our guests say the Club is like The Ritz, but I say it’s better than The Ritz because we can have a laugh, a sing and a joke – you won’t be getting that at The Ritz anytime soon!
And the pantries are great. Just like Farmers’ Markets – with music playing, lots of volunteers helping out, and laughter – there’s always the laughter. And dignity – this comes first. No one has to provide “proof of income” to join in. No - for £3.50 our friends can choose ten items that they need and often a whole bunch of extras from the surplus stock. It keeps families going - knowing they have the pantry, knowing there is always a welcome there and stuff for the cupboard. A foodbank is amazing and a lifeline for so many but a pantry is ‘next level’ due to being able to choose our food and the fresh produce there too. It's a magical idea and I'd love to see a lot more of them throughout Merseyside and the UK.
This is the most socially minded community I have ever encountered – those with the least still give what they can, still join in, probably giving the most of all of us. This is what we mean in Liverpool when we say, you'll never walk alone. They will never let you, if you need them!
To find out more and to donate, see https://donorbox.org/fanssupportingfoodbanks