‘The West Ham family has rallied behind our campaign to help those in need’

We hear from John Ratomski on the success of the Irons Foodbanks in its first 18 months

When Irons Supporting Foodbanks formed a partnership with Newham Foodbank and began collecting together at the London Stadium at the end of December 2019, nobody could have predicted the situation 18 months later. 

Initially set up to collect food donations from up to 60,000 fans going to home games, and following similar volunteer-led schemes being run by fans of Everton, Liverpool and Newcastle United, the Club was very quick to support the project.

In fact, the Club supported us from day one. Head of Supporter Services Jake Heath organized a sizeable food collection with the staff, and repeatedly publicised our pre-match collection point through the Club social media and in the match day programme. 

When we approached Andy at the Met Police, he said ‘how big is your van?’ On the first day a dozen bobbies turned up with two bulging carrier bags of donations each.

Donations grew steadily each game and by the end of February we had collected more than £2,350 in cash and over 400kg in food.

During those months we received foodbank donations from Liverpool and Everton when they visited West Ham United, and we were able to make donations when we visited Sheffield United and Liverpool to support their fan foodbanks.

When the first lockdown began there were no fans allowed for the last five home games, but when he heard of the shortfall, Joint Chairman David Sullivan made a personal donation to the Foodbank to cover what would have been collected during those last five games. 

We’ve also since then been able to focus alongside Newham Foodbank on local children at Christmas and Easter, with seasonal chocolate donations of almost 15,000 items over the three periods. 

This demonstrates the gratefully-received support we get from the Club and fans, who also contributed over £10,000 through the #SayNoToPPV campaign, online quizzes run by stadium DJ Russ Budden, and other donations. 

Fan groups also supported us with donations and appeals, including Neil Taylor’s Hammers For Work and Support Facebook page, regulars at the Victoria Tavern in Plaistow, Pride of Irons and West Ham Fan TV.

As the lockdown and restrictions extended during 2020, the Club became even more supportive. Mark Noble, Declan Rice and the squad donated funds to the Foodbank as well as further donations from David Sullivan. 

During the lockdowns, the WHU Foundation donated supplies and face masks to Newham Foodbank and provided a vehicle and volunteers to deliver food parcels to the vulnerable every week. 

A further donation from David Sullivan provided for a much-needed delivery van for the Foodbank to stock up at the six other food centres that they supply from, and collect donations from local supermarkets.

To further highlight the impact that these donations have had, Newham Foodbank trustee, Adeola Osunbade, recently told me: ’Without the generous support and partnership of Irons Supporting Foodbanks, we could simply not be able to support our community members facing emergency food crisis in Newham across the six centres we operate from in Newham. 

‘Last week alone we had 746 families and individuals who received food parcels and toiletries. The van has also enabled us to reach more, especially those who are housebound, nursing mothers or those working on a low income and can’t physically attend a centre.’ 

Through the support they receive from Fans Supporting Foodbanks in Liverpool, they now have regular access to new surplus clothing from a supplier in Cheshire. 

They have supplied several thousand new tees and hoodies to a number of Newham charities including The Magpie Project, Lola’s Homeless and a number of Newham church homeless groups. They will also soon be supplying the SHP hostel in Ilford.

Last Easter, our then Women’s team MD Jack Sullivan introduced their newest sponsor Rainer Hughes to Irons Supporting Foodbanks and the Foodbank, who received a donation of food parcels and Easter eggs. 

A further donation of 300 Easter eggs was made by the Club to the Easter Egg Appeal. Club Charity partner Spire London East Hospital also made a sizeable donation.

We’ve had to learn very quickly during the last 18 months about how to grow our Foodbank support network. The Club, West Ham fans and friends have really come together with their generous support. 

Demand has increased so much in that time, through unemployment, furlough, Covid, and we now head in the next two months into the school summer holidays when there will be even more demand on a stretched family budget.

We’ve also been able to widen our activities through being part of One Newham and work with Newham children in need, and the homeless.

We look forward to seeing our regular match day donors again now that fans are allowed back into our London Stadium home, and we also looking forward to making new friends with new supporters. 

We’ll be at our usual place between Westfield and the Aquatics Centre, opposite the Site Information Centre from three hours before kick off.

You can follow us on Twitter @IFoodbanks, Instagram ifoodbanks or Facebook.

Also look out for updates on www.ironsfoodbanks.co.uk 

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