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BACK in January this column covered City of Liverpool FC’s plans to open a food pantry and food union in the community, giving households on lower incomes access to affordable groceries, toiletries and other items.
The Purple Pantry, named after the club’s colours which are in turn taken from Liverpool’s civic colours, was due to open its doors last week, but as the coronavirus began to have an even greater effect on these communities, the need for such items became more urgent, and the way they were accessed and distributed needed to change.
Rather than open the food pantry as planned, there was a slight change of purpose as the new food union became an emergency source of food, household goods and other essentials.
The issue of food poverty has long been at the heart of the club’s community work and ever since the first home game, foodbank donations have been taken on matchdays.
“At our first-ever home game against Conwy Borough in July 2016, we asked for foodbank donations from our supporters and we have done so ever since,” says City of Liverpool FC chairman Paul Manning.
“It led to a distribution relationship with the excellent Fans Supporting Foodbanks and cemented our relationship with our main club sponsors, Regenda Homes, who have always been big donors.
“Foodbanks are a vital community service in modern Britain, which frankly is a stain on a country which has the seventh biggest economy in the world, but as well as supporting foodbanks we have always wanted to do more to help feed our local community.
“The food union concept has been very well received and so, with premises lying largely unused, we began preparations to create the Purple Pantry, replicating a successful food-union business model.”
Many products have become scarce on supermarket shelves in the past few weeks as shoppers hoard food and toiletries, and panic buy. As a result, it became more difficult for foodbanks and unions to access the things they need to provide for those most vulnerable in the community.
A number of initiatives have been set up to remedy this, with many fund-raisers across the country in support of the Trussell Trust network of foodbanks.
Measures such as social distancing, and instructions to stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary to go out, have made it more difficult for foodbanks and unions to co-ordinate their efforts and get the food to where it is needed, especially as many volunteers were in high-risk categories.
This has led to changes in the way they operate.
“Everything was in place to open the Purple Pantry and an announcement was imminent when the coronavirus outbreak really began to hit,” adds Manning. “So we decided to temporarily abandon the idea of the food union and move to a system of emergency food-parcel delivery instead.
“We had a tremendous response in the form of food donations from club sponsors Regenda Homes and the PLS Foundation, and then a small team of club volunteers packed and delivered the parcels from our Smithdown Road premises last week.
“With our football season being suspended, we have a lot of club volunteers twiddling their thumbs and stories of pensioners and vulnerable families being unable to source food due to panic buying or overcrowding at supermarkets and shops, so it seemed like a good idea to try and help.”
The club set up a GoFundMe page with the proceeds going towards putting together emergency food parcels. It reached its target of £1,500 in less than 24 hours.
Donations came from far and wide from a total of 71 donors to the sum of £1,650 at the time of writing, including a £200 contribution from Erin Borini, the wife of current Hellas Verona and former Liverpool player Fabio.
“The plan is to obtain delivery of more food this week, to pack it and deliver it,” says Manning.
“With the new government lockdown in place, we are currently unsure if we can proceed with the plan, but we hope to be out and about and making these important deliveries as soon as possible.”
Once this is all over and people have stacks of food stored away in their homes, the best thing to do would be to make a donation to help the foodbanks and food unions stock their shelves.
Even once the coronavirus has been subdued, the fight against food poverty will continue.
In the meantime, the Purple Pantry is still taking donations via GoFundMe. Search for Purple Pantry — Local Food Emergency Drops or visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/purple-pantry-local-food-emergency-drops
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