Following the success of Supporter Foodbanks in Merseyside, Glasgow and more recently our own NUFC Fans Foodbank the Football Supporters Federation arranged a conference at St James’ park on Friday 13th October. Fans of a host of clubs attended and including other local clubs, Sunderland, Boro and Hartlepool.
It was particularly impressive to see a huge Scouse contingent which consisted not only of football supporters but representatives from a number of agencies and their lead Councillor-all who had appeared to be working closely on their foodbank and other related Projects
The day kicked off with introductions from Kevin Miles, CE of the FSF and local MP Chi Onwurah before handing over to Gateshead MP and lifelong Mag Ian Mearns, who explained his role as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group of Football Supporters.
There then followed a session with representatives from Merseyside led by David Kelly from Everton and Ian Byrne from Liverpool who explained the work they did in setting up their own Supporters Foodbank and their integration with agencies and within their own community. A wide range of questions and comments from the floor followed with many attendees outlining their own experiences.
A session from Celtic Foundation followed on how the issue of Foodbanks had been approached north of the Border. It was particularly interesting listening to their speaker from their own Foodbanks,Tara, who described how she had progressed from homeless, living in a car, to volunteering, and now to running a number of Foodbanks in and around Glasgow.
The final speaker was Mike Nixon, of our own West End Foodbanks explaining the role they play in supporting the local community, and talking about the assistance NUFC Fans Foodbank have given since the whole idea of setting up a supporter Foodbank was first mooted around a year ago. Our own NUST Board member Colin Whittle talked about how the idea moved from inception to reality and Bill Corcoran echoed the feeling of the floor about the contributions fans can make and the difference being made by NUFC Fans Foodbank.
The main aim of the whole day was to enable fans to learn from others and share experiences for the greater benefit and there was no doubt that this aim was achieved. A working group was established consisting of representatives from Newcastle, Celtic and Merseyside in order to progress things on a national basis.
The whole event showed the power of football fans working for the greater good of their communities and bringing those communities closer together .It was a privilege to be in attendance but there’s more work to do!