Aston Villa Foundation is the charitable arm of the Aston Villa Football Club. With the help of 80 staff members, they provide programmes to Birmingham residents of all ages. Over the last three years, the charity has partnered with FareShare to supply food to those who attend their programmes.
“Our work with FareShare is primarily with young people in the heart of the communities that need the most support, maybe have the lowest income families,” shared James Lowbridge, Operations Manager of Aston Villa Foundation. “When we have youth club sessions and football sessions, we try to have food available. FareShare’s been a massive help in arranging that, and having that weekly supplier of food at the sessions is always massive for the people who attend.”
FareShare and Aston Villa Foundation are not only partners; they're also neighbours.
Supplying food items to Birmingham’s youth
“The distribution centre is less than a mile away from the [organisation], it’s around the corner from the stadium. So every week, we pick up about 25 kilos [of food], and we take it to one of the youth clubs where we feel probably needs the most support,” James explained.
A wide range of people show up to the sessions and are able to help themselves to the food. Since many of the programmes run from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the evening, knowing that they’ll receive something to eat helps Aston Villa Foundation draw in a bigger crowd.
“There’s a range of healthy foods and snacks. We get a lot of potato chips, fruit, apples, oranges [and] plums,” said James. “We get drinks that are easy to give out, like Squash. We get a lot of energy bars, which are really good. Kind of like the stuff you might find in the supermarket. It’s a lot of seasonal food as well. Around Christmas and Easter, we’ll get little cake bars and chocolate bars. The kind of potato chips we have been getting, they’re quite healthy ones as well, they’re not the full-fat ones. And the kids always love [when we get] Doritos.”
When the initial COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were lifted, Aston Villa Foundation was grateful that their venue allowed them to continue using the space. “There was a point right in the heart of the pandemic where sport was allowed to help with mental health and physical wellbeing. So the session that provided food was able to carry on and rarely missed a session,” James shared. “Since it was the only one that was really running at the time, we were getting kids from different areas to come together, and the food was snapped up into space in 10, 15 minutes. So there was a high demand for it.”
Keeping the community active during COVID
With the cost of living increasing across the U.K., James noted that the charity is starting to see the effect of inflation among the Birmingham community. “We’ve seen an increase of food banks in England. We did one recently at Villa Park [where] 500 families were provided with food. So moving forward, we’re trying to increase our work with FareShare, to offer food at more youth clubs. We’ve seen that trend now where families working within the community are gonna need it more than ever, especially with the rise of energy prices and basic bills.”
Expanding their food services
Above all, the Aston Villa Foundation wants to continue being a place where people, especially youth, can come to enjoy sports with a side of fresh and nutritious food from FareShare.
“The food will bring people together as much as [the] sport will. So because they go hand in hand, it's very valuable and vital for us to carry on doing that. We’re quite grateful and appreciative of anything we can give out.”