EitC’s Blue Base Pantry feeds close to the capacity of Goodison Park

EVERTON in the Community’s Blue Base Pantry has marked its 100th pantry session recently, having fed a staggering 38,576 individuals since launching in June 2022 – just shy of the capacity of Everton Football Club’s Goodison Park.

Delivered in partnership with Fans Supporting Foodbanks, Your Local Pantry, FareShare and Feeding Liverpool, the weekly pantry was initially set up to combat food insecurity within Liverpool 4 following the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent cost-of-living crisis by providing members with access to high-quality discounted food; quickly establishing itself as the third biggest ‘Your Local Pantry’ in the UK.

Situated in one of the country’s most deprived wards, the award-winning community initiative rapidly evolved into a holistic hub by offering key wraparound services to tackle financial hardship in all its forms and to serve the needs of the charity’s local residents. The pantry teamed up with organisations such as Riverside Housing, Enterprise Credit Union, Job Centre Plus and Smoke-Free Liverpool to give guidance on benefits, welfare and housing support. Elsewhere, members also have access to regular health screenings and a fortnightly jobs fair hosted by the charity’s Employability team, as well as a recently launched Health Hub for individuals who are inactive and long-term sick.

The Blue Base Pantry’s 100th session was marked this week with a celebration event at EitC’s Blue Base before the pantry commenced, where staff members, volunteers, pantry members as well as Club Ambassador, Ian Snodin came together to reflect on its impactful delivery to date. Following that service, the member-centred scheme not only fed 38,576 individuals overall and reached 14,439 visits but also saved over 28 tonnes of food from landfill in total.

Moreover, in just 100 pantry sessions, EitC has supported 500 local families – providing 1,199 unique children with access to high-quality discounted food and the weekly pantry currently has 434 members. Cited as an example of best practice in the UK Parliament’s 2023 DEFRA Food Security Reports, the initiative has been recognised at national and regional award ceremonies during that time as well, including the 2023 Football Business Awards and ‘Community Initiative of the Season’ at the 2023 Northwest Football Awards.

Additionally, the Blue Base Pantry’s 20 volunteers hit 4,640 hours of service after this week’s 100th pantry session with their unwavering commitment recently recognised at the charity’s Blue Heart Awards, where they won the ‘Team of the Year – Non-Sporting’ award on the night.

Other significant highlights for the pantry so far include launching its monthly ‘Clothes Swap Shop’ alongside Zero Fashion UK CIC in March 2024 which has since helped more than 100 pantry members gain new clothing for free. Also, in December 2023, the pantry received approximately £7,500 worth of L’oreal products from The Hygiene Bank which were then redistributed to service users and EitC participants; saving 250kg of goods from landfill.

Reflecting on the Blue Base Pantry’s 100th session, Ryan O’Hanlon, Blue Family Coordinator at EitC said:

“This is a bittersweet occasion for me and the rest of the delivery team. Whilst we’re incredibly proud of the amount of people we’ve fed and supported as well as the support networks we’ve built, the number of families and individuals who are struggling is staggering. Despite the members’ hardships, they’re always prepared to give back and are so thankful. We cannot thank our external partners enough for helping us to deliver this service; it’s important that we are here for the community of L4, supporting them as much as we can for as long as they need it.”

Dave Kelly, Chair at Fans Supporting Foodbanks said:

“Fans Supporting Foodbanks started its ‘Mobile Pantries’ initiative in 2020 and operates seven mobiles across the Liverpool City Region. Our partnership with Everton in the Community at the Blue Base has enabled us to feed tens of thousands of people within the local community. With food poverty and food insecurity impacting so many people, the pantry has become a lifesaver for many. Our pantries aren’t just about food, they also have a positive impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing.”

Dr Naomi Maynard, Director of Feeding Liverpool said:

“The Blue Base Pantry has developed into a vital community hub in the north of the city. Alongside providing affordable good food, the pantry is such a welcoming space where friendships have formed, people are given opportunities to volunteer and learn new skills, and essential advice and support has been given. It is a lifeline for many. At Feeding Liverpool, we have been privileged to support the pantry as it has grown and look forward to continuing to work together towards Good Food for All.”

Chris Shelley, Merseyside Coordinator at Your Local Pantry stated:

“The Blue Base Pantry is one of our biggest and busiest pantries. Ryan and his volunteers do a fantastic job, not just with the food they provide but with all the additional help and support they offer their members. Congratulations to the Blue Base Pantry on its 100th session and for becoming such an important part of its community.”

For more details, please visit: www.evertoninthecommunity.org.