I accepted the award not for myself but on behalf of the 52,000 Newcastle United supporters who give their backing and donate to the NUFC Fans Foodbank on match days; helping to feed over 1.000 people a week who attend the Newcastle West End Foodbank; the largest Foodbank in Europe. The idea for a collection point on match days came about after a conversation with two friends, Colin Whittle and Bill Corcoran, having seen Ken Loach's film I Daniel Blake and wondered if there was anything we, as football supporters could do to empower NUFC's fanbase to help people in our community that needed support.
We had faith in our fellow football supporters to rally around and In less than 2 seasons the match day donation station has raised cash and produce donations to the value of over £170,000. last Saturday prior to the Premier League game v Bournemouth, a further £2,300, 350kg of food produce and over 450 advent calendars were added to that total. As a now ex civil servant I find it shocking that so many are being impacted by our Government's policies and practices that underpin Universal Credit (UC) and make food banks so essential and are now being used by Government Ministers as a backstop holding together their failing policy.
Football clubs are often viewed as the mealticket workplace of pandered athletes; young men out of touch with reality. However, I can honestly say that in Newcastle United, their playing, coaching and executives teams, its charitable arm the Newcastle United Foundation and its senior management, operations, finance and development teams, learning and skills coaches, community officers, health and football development coaches, the match day staff; including hospitality, safety, security, corporate and facilities and not forgetting the tea lady we have a collective team who have truly embraced the principles of the Newcastle Fans Foodbank Initiative, supporting the work of the Newcastle West End Foodbank. Their support has played a huge part in the initiatives success and every supporter should be proud of their involvement. As they should their own!
Foodbanks are not there to replace any part of a benefits system but sadly UC is making their need even greater than ever. we aren't feeding junkies, rough sleepers or benefit cheats; we are feeding normal families who don't have enough money to see them through the week; can't survive waiting up to 12 weeks for benefits to be put in place; mothers who are struggling to balance between buying school uniforms, heating their homes, feeding their children and often going without hot meals themselves.
To anyone and everyone who donates to a foodbank; THANK YOU.