A group of football fans in Liverpool have launched new food and protective equipment hubs in the city to address worrying shortages.
The Fans Supporting Foodbanks group has raised more than £100,000 in funds in just a month, which has enabled them to create a new food and distribution hub in Anfield Sports Centre.
The group, who usually collect food at Liverpool and Everton matches for foodbanks in the city, have enlisted the support of local businesses, trade unions and other local organisations in their efforts to feed and protect people.
From the hub, hundreds of food parcels for people in self-isolation or in need of food during the coronavirus crisis are being packaged and distributed.
A steady stream of volunteers are producing family and single packs of non-perishable goods, fruit and vegetable packs and fresh bread using local suppliers and these are delivered to the people who need them.
Fans Supporting Foodbanks was set up by West Derby MP Ian Byrne, Dave Kelly and Robert Daniels four years ago, they now supply nearly 30% of food to North Liverpool foodbanks.
After the football season was suspended in March because of coronavirus, the group set up an online donation page to enable fans who wished to continue to donate.
From an initial target of £10,000 this online fundraising effort now stands at an incredible total of £105,672.30 from 1540 donations after four weeks.
And in a separate operation, Fans Supporting Foodbanks is working in collaboration with local businesses and educators to produce and distribute vital Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for health and social care workers on the front line of the fight against Covid-19.
Fears continue to be expressed about the amount of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) available for frontline workers battling against the coronavirus epidemic.
Yesterday, doctors and nurses were told they may have to re-use some protective equipment ahead of expected shortages.
Those working in social care and other frontline roles have also raised concerns about the protection available to them.
At the new Anfield hub, items of protective equipment are also being packaged and delivered to the frontline.
Fans Supporting Foodbanks is now working in collaboration with local businesses and educators to produce and distribute vital PPE for health and social care workers in the area.
They have teamed up with Lydiate Learning Trust (LLT) who are working out of Studio@Deyes at Wavertree Technology Park and comprise staff from Studio@Deyes, an engineering specialist college, Deyes High School and Childwall Sport and Science Academy.
LLT have been flooded with enquiries from across the North West since sharing their face mask design on Facebook last week.
Within an hour of the post going live, between 300-500 orders had been made from hospitals in Liverpool and Manchester, alongside requests from police forces, paramedics and GPs – a nursing home in Wolverhampton even got in touch to see if it could have the vital equipment delivered.
Also part of the collaboration is Optimum Group, which runs franchises of Costa Coffee and Kaspa’s branches in Merseyside and are currently working around the clock to produce vital PPE for frontline NHS staff and other key workers.
Optimum Group founder Dave Connor said: “We have all been watching the news and have been devastated to see frontline NHS staff and other key workers without the PPE they need.
“We initially donated £1,000 to help but wanted to do much more. Lots of lives are on the line here.”
After seeing an appeal about The Blue Anchor pub in Southport using a 3D printer to make visors, Mr Connor delivered Perspex to them so they could continue to make the vital safety equipment.
He is now urging anyone with laser printers – which can make the products much quicker and in much greater quantities – to come forward.
He says: “A 3D printer can make eight visors a day and a laser cutter can do 150 a day.
"We are looking for anyone out there with laser printers to get in touch if they can help.”
“We can provide Perspex free to schools, colleges, businesses and others with laser printers to make Perspex masks quickly and in great numbers.”
The materials needed are being kindly donated by the group with the aim of manufacturing over 30,000 urgently needed PPE visors for local hospitals, care homes, funeral parlours, and others who so desperately need them.
Mr Connor said: “We are normally out there making cups of coffee, now we are looking to make Perspex visors, but we have to do something. So many people need them urgently. NHS staff, care homes, people working in funeral parlours, and many more.”
A Merseyside artist who wishes to remain anonymous but is known on twitter as Daily Sketcher (@daily_sketcher) is another key member of this North West initiative to produce vitally needed PPE for key workers.
Daily Sketcher came across the lack of PPE when a doctor friend posted on social media about having to make her own face shield, after her practice had been designated as a COVID-19 hub but was not issued with any PPE.
Daily Sketcher says the lack of support shown to NHS staff was a real shock – they wanted to support their doctor friend and her colleagues so began researching DIY face shields.
They came across a massive online community manufacturing PPE and modified some open source designs to fit the equipment they had and began production of face shields.
"We weren’t going to just sit there and let our people starve or our key workers go unprotected"
They said: “I reached out on social media and was put in touch with Fans Supporting Foodbanks, and was very excited to link up with them to increase the number of frontline workers we can support who have been left without adequate PPE and are putting themselves at risk by continuing to work.”
Fans Supporting Foodbanks will be calling on their existing networks to support LLT and other PPE producers with fundraising, logistics and distribution requirements.
Fans Supporting Foodbanks co-founder Ian Byrne says: “Five years ago we set up Fans Supporting Foodbanks to stop people in our communities going hungry.
"We weren’t going to just sit there and let our people starve. In much the same way, we can’t just sit back now and let our key workers on the frontline go into battle against coronavirus without the protective equipment they desperately need in order to stay safe.”
He also thanked the large number of people and organisations that have helped to bring the hgue hub together, including local foodbanks, Liverpool Council and Liverpool and Everton football clubs.
He added: "Their efforts are hugely appreciated and will not be forgotten by our communities when we are through this crisis. The solidarity shown by all is something I will never forget. It will alsoserve as a fantastic template for future collaborations in better times.”
Fans Supporting Foodbanks Co-founder Dave Kelly adds: “Despite Government claims that they are getting supplies to all who need them, we know this simply isn’t the case because we are being inundated with calls every day from desperate NHS and care workers who are afraid for their lives and those of patients and family members.
"They want to go to work and help people, but they also want to be able to do that safely.”
The parties involved in this PPE collaboration are keen to hear from individuals and businesses with specialist skills, materials, equipment, or knowledge to help in this effort.
Fans Supporting Foodbanks on twitter @SFoodbanks or call Dave Kelly on 07805 441295 or
email Ian Byrne on firstname.lastname@example.org
LLT on twitter @LLTPPE
Daily Sketcher on twitter @daily_sketcher
Optimum Group/Dave Connor at: email@example.com