Reviewing the Football for Food Campaign Expansion

We received funding from Awards for All, Big Lottery Fund and Freshgate Trust to expand our Football for Food campaign, raising awareness of the extent and causes of food poverty – tackling misrepresentations and myths – which includes static incomes, rising living costs, low pay, underemployment and problems with welfare whilst collecting more food to distribute via Sheffield Food Collective to local food banks.


The events part of this extended campaign included:

*Kick-Ups in Town: 19th of June 2016, Devonshire Green, 10am-6pm – at this event we ran a pop-up stall at Devonshire Green where we had donation buckets/containers to encourage donations of food for food banks we are working with via Sheffield Food Collective, with a stall with information about the campaign (via leaflets), whilst players from our 11-a-side teams handed out fliers to members of the public and also attracted people by kicking the ball about and doing tricks and skills where possible. Players were sponsored to take part in the event by food. Through this event, we collected 133 items of food, working out at around 49 kilograms of food. The event was also covered on Sheffield Live.

*Pop-Up Quiz: 8th of July 2016, Union Street, 18-20 Union St, Sheffield S1 2JR, 6-9pm – at this event we organised a Football for Food general knowledge women’s focussed pop-up quiz where people entered to take part by bringing food to donate at the event. We also included questions regarding food poverty within the quiz to raise awareness of the issues and the reasons for why we are running the campaign. Through this event we collected 70 items of food, working out at around 28 kilograms of food.

“Shocked at how much food poverty there is in our city” – feedback from someone who attended our Pop-Up Quiz event

*Football for Food 5-a-side Tournament: 16th of July 2016, 12-4pm, The U-Mix Centre, 17 Asline Rd, Sheffield S2 4UJ – AFC Unity, AFC Unity Jets, Yorkshire St Pauli, Mount Pleasant Park FC, Roundabout Utd, Clapton Ultras, Small Ideas FC, Easton Cowgirls and Mexborough Athletic all entered to take part in this tournament by donating food rather than paying to enter with spectators encouraged to bring food to donate as well. We also had the following speakers talking at the tournament:

*Gill Furniss, Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside & Hillsborough
*Carrie Dunn, a journalist, writing about sport – primarily women’s sport – and has covered events from World Cups to the Ashes to the Olympics
*Nick Waterfield, works in and around Parson Cross in North Sheffield for the Methodist Church and is the Chair of Sheffield Church Action on Poverty
*Debbie Matthews, CEO of Manor and Castle Development Trust for 11 years and one of the founder members of the S2 Food Bank
*Steve Clark, volunteer with the Sunday Centre – a project open every Sunday afternoon for homeless and other vulnerable people – for about 12 years and is their current Chair


At this event we collected 915 items of food, working out at around 355 kilograms of food alongside a £50.00 donation for the food banks. This is more than we collected in 11 events previous to this point (excluding the Sponsored Kick-ups and Pop-Up Quiz events!).

“The link between football, socially minded football teams and social justice / food projects is potentially very powerful” – feedback from someone who attended our 5-a-side Football for Food tournament.

We also premièred 3 videos we have had made by local filmmaker Claire Watkinson for the campaign.

*11-a-side players volunteering at The Sunday Centre, 24th of July 2016 – The Sunday Centre provides a friendly shelter for homeless, isolated and vulnerable people where they can obtain refreshments and a cooked meal in the city centre on a Sunday afternoon. We volunteered to help with the serving of drinks and food to guests and chat.

In total, through the expansion we collected 1118 items of food working out to be around 432 kilograms of food!

Campaign Videos

As part of the Football for Food Campaign Expansion we had 3 videos made by local filmmaker Claire Watkinson – these videos were shown for the first time at our Football for Food 5-a-side tournament. The three films were:

1) Did You Know? Key Facts on Food Poverty:

In this video, players and personnel from AFC Unity deliver key facts regarding food poverty to the camera, with the aim of friends and family sharing this around their social media networks helping raise awareness regarding the issues. This was a key part of our campaign, as we didn’t want to only collect food donations without raising awareness of why this is happening and needed. Moving forward, we wish to challenge the growing normalisation of food bank use as this is not part of creating a long-term fair and equal society.

“I didn’t quite realise the scale of the problem, with 4 million in food poverty” – feedback from someone who attended our Pop-Up Quiz event.

2) Food Bank Case Study:

A food bank we distribute collected food to was visited – this food bank is based in Parson Cross at Mount Tabor Church. Parson Cross Initiative Share Food Bank have utilised this video to promote the work they do too.

3) We Are AFC Unity:

This video helped us as a club promote what we do, creating more awareness regarding our Football for Food campaign, highlighting how the club is an agent for social change rather than just being a football club.

Campaign Statistics

As part of the campaign, we also produced a page on our website where we added and will keep adding statistics on food poverty and the causes and reasons for this providing people with further reading and sources/evidence for the claims we have shared during the campaign (such as through our Did You Know? Key Facts on Food Poverty video).

Awards Ceremony and Launch of Expansion of Football for Food

We launched our Football for Food campaign expansion at our End of Season (2015/2016) Awards Ceremony, where we also collected around 12kg of food and 31 items. Nick Waterfield from Parson Cross food bank attended the event and talked about the importance of the campaign.


“Very surprised by the number of children in poverty in Sheffield” – feedback from someone who attended our Pop-Up Quiz event.


Football for Food 5-a-side Tournament

The Football for Food 5-a-side Tournament was the biggest event as part of the expansion campaign. We do want to build on this more however, as there is a worrying normalisation of food bank provision within the welfare system. This is a key reason for why we had speakers at the tournament that talked about community food provision, food poverty and community responses to it.

“There should be something like this in every council/village/town” – feedback from someone who attended our 5-a-side Football for Food tournament.

All teams were presented with an award at the end of the tournament by Nick Waterfield for taking part with the winners winning the “Football for Food 5-a-side Trophy”. Sheffield Live and BBC Radio Sheffield covered the tournament event too.


We had 7 volunteers that helped out on the day:

  • Kate, helped with selling merchandise and counting up the food donated on the day.
  • Sarah R helped with counting up the food donated on the day.
  • Sarah C recorded the scores of the games, the goalscorers and updated the league tables coordinating with the referees.
  • David helped with coordinating the speaker section of the event.
  • Theo helped with counting up food and collecting survey and demographic information.
  • Sharon helped with taking the food collected away at the end of the game.
  • Nick Waterfield from Parson Cross food bank helped out by providing teams the timetable of the day and a tournament booklet when they got there and also presented the awards.


We are planning for this to be an annual event – responding to the feedback we have got from running our first ever tournament – until food banks are not required at the extent they are. We do not want food bank use to be normalised but understand how valuable they are at times like these and are encouraged to carry on given the positive feedback regarding our campaign and events run as part of this.

“Great campaign to raise awareness, collect food and have fun whilst doing it” – feedback from someone who attended our 5-a-side Football for Food tournament.
“It is an excellent initiative, as it helps on three levels: 1) Practical volunteer support 2) Donations 3 ) Raising awareness” – feedback from someone who attended our 5-a-side Football for Food tournament.

We also had a video produced documenting the Football for Food 5-a-side tournament which includes interviews with some of the speakers and players that took part in the event.

“Effective, well run and a brilliant way to raise awareness and help those relying on food banks” – player feedback regarding the campaign.

Media Coverage

The project has received considerable media coverage:

“It’s brilliant! It makes such a difference and it’s something nice to get involved in instead of just playing football” – player feedback regarding the campaign.

Key Campaign Achievements


  • Through the expansion we collected 1118 items of food working out to be around 432 kilograms of food.
  • Ran a series of events that not only collected food but also raised awareness of the campaign and why we are running the campaign as a club.
  • Demonstrated the potential for football to be more than a game, and football clubs to be key agents for social change.
  • Raised awareness of the scale, extent and reasons for food poverty with an emphasis on the local context.
  • Changed people’s opinions on food poverty and the use of food banks, tackling myths and misconceptions e.g. on who uses food banks.
  • Engaged a wide range of people across Sheffield and beyond in the events and the campaign.
  • Achieved wide spread coverage for the campaign, the campaign being key to us winning awards.
  • Engaged several volunteers in the campaign organisation, research and implementation, increasing confidence, skills and social networking.
  • Empowered 11-a-side players as positive role models through their involvement with the campaign.
  • Helped improve our promotion of the regular food collections we do at our home games, helping us produce marketing material we can utilise beyond the project to keep advertising this.
  • Increased our connections with food banks in Sheffield, understanding the need more and how we can make the campaign work better from now onwards.

Long-Term Plan

We want to do more work on raising awareness of the causes of food poverty, with real life stories and the impact this has had something we will look at doing more on. We have done a lot on sharing statistics and the extent of food poverty, but we can definitely do more on producing real life stories that people can connect with that can relate to challenging the normalisation of food poverty.

Solidarity Soccer Participant Spotlight: April Worrall

Solidarity Soccer is our innovative community based football training initiative for women which has empowerment, skill sharing and a personalised approach shaping it.

We spoke to regular Solidarity Soccer attendee April Worrall about her experiences of Solidarity Soccer, and what kind of impact it has had on and off the pitch – April has won the Teamwork Digital Award and has been a key part of our Tuesday Solidarity Soccer session.


AFC Unity: In a few words, how would you describe Solidarity Soccer to someone who hasn’t been?
April: It’s a fun weekly event where you can join other women to learn football skills and play football.

AFC Unity: What would you say to someone who hasn’t been to Solidarity Soccer if you wanted them to come along?
April: Switch off your TV or phone and come and join me and others enjoying playing football‎ and learning new skills. It will make you feel better all round.

AFC Unity: Do you have any stories that stand out from your time of being involved in Solidarity Soccer?
April: I’ve met some really nice people who have managed to recapture during the sessions, what I fondly remember football was like for me as a child. Fun and rewarding working with a team who are supportive‎ throughout. I had been looking for a session like this for a while and glad I have found one close to home.

AFC Unity: Has Solidarity Soccer had an impact on your outside football life?
April: Yes, it’s encouraged me to do more exercise as I was starting to believe sitting down was a sport at one point. It’s also helped me whilst re-training in a new job as the exercise has helped manage stress better.

AFC Unity: If you could pick one word to describe Solidarity Soccer what would it be?
April: Enjoyable.

AFC Unity: What has been your favourite skill to learn and why?
April: I’ve enjoyed learning the 360 degree turn, which has taken a lot of practice. It makes my game more entertaining even though it makes me a tad dizzy.

AFC Unity: Anything else to add?
April: Thanks to all at Solidarity Soccer and if you’re thinking about taking up a sport then try Solidarity Soccer…you won’t regret it!

AFC Unity: Not Your Average Team

by Sam Holmes


In this day and age, it is rather difficult to maintain a set of morals within football. With the constant media pressure, any player’s antics are captured and reported about within minutes. Every nightclub squabble, training bust-up or driving fine seems to be applied to a player on a weekly basis. Of course, sometimes players do not respond in the most positive of ways. Some even forget how they act as role models for young players across the world.

This shortage of genuine footballing heroes, many of whom receive considerably less media attention than the less well-behaved amongst them, proves worrying at times. The constant misbehaviour often transfers through to Sunday league, with abusive language towards referees or supporters unfortunately being as commonplace as goals at times. It can be demoralising watching or playing for a local side, and having to witness such negativity.

Thankfully, I have been lucky enough to experience a team that refuses to be tarred with the same brush, so to speak. AFC Unity pride themselves on being ‘an alternative football club for women’. There is no room for criticism within the group, and rightly so. It is purely about being a team – win, lose or draw.

This mentality, rarely seen in the modern game, has brought about the right results. Their sheer dedication to contributing as a team resulted in a mid-table finish in Division 2 of the Sheffield & Hallamshire Women’s County Football League. This was undoubtedly extremely respectable, considering it was the squad’s debut in the second division. They built a sort of fortress at home, losing only twice as hosts throughout the campaign, one of which came against eventual runners-up: Edlington Royals.dsc04621

AFC Unity were founded in 2014, which highlights just how successful they have been. To climb into a higher league and establish stability and consistent results within two years was not only impressive, it was attractive. The high interest in the side led to a long list of applicants, each hoping to represent the team. This, in turn, formed the second-team. AFC Unity Jets’ formation, whose name stems from ‘suffragettes’, highlighted how an initial squad bursting with confidence, yet encouragement for one another, could lead to other women wanting to play football.

Players of all ages, each with differing levels of experience of the beautiful game, now represent the teams. The expansion saw form drop somewhat this season, however with long-established sides such as Sheffield United Reserves competing, there is certainly no negativity. There is no reason to be pessimistic, as high morale within the team has rewarded them in past seasons.

unityworkstouchlineCo-founders Jay Baker and Jane Watkinson are confident that, once the injured return and younger players adapt to playing at a higher level, the goals will start coming. Maintaining the team chemistry appears to be a vital method of yielding results. Jay, who is also first team manager, told his side the following during training:

“Whatever reason you first started playing football…that is why you want to play on Sunday”.

This quote perfectly defines the whole club, and again contrasts to the ideologies of today’s footballing powerhouses. Nowadays, the so-called ‘stars’ of world football often seem to lose sight of the main reason for playing football. It shouldn’t merely be a way of acquiring a mansion or the newest supercar. There should be passion on the pitch. Often, a bad challenge is regarded as passion. This common misconception again suggests that football has lost its way.

Football, at least at the highest level, seems to involve criticism constantly. The media critique players, the players blast managers, and the managers roast referees. The cycle continues. Therefore, it is so refreshing to see a team with a differing outlook. AFC Unity ignore all unconstructiveness associated with football. They boast a football philosophy concerned with inclusivity and fair play.

They are, simply put, a remarkable team.


Photo credits: Yin-Hsuan Yiang and Kate Fenton-Jarvis


AFC Unity Join the Fight for a Pay Rise!

fightforEveryone at AFC Unity has worked so hard to make the Football for Food campaign such a continuing success.

It is with great pleasure that we can announce that AFC Unity have agreed to support the Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise Campaign.

The campaign is building towards a demonstration in Sheffield City Centre on Saturday 17th of December at 1pm on Devonshire Green to which as many AFC Unity representatives as possible are welcomed to come, with kits, tracksuits, scarves, beanies and badges all on show!

With low wages being one of the driving reasons behind people finding themselves in food poverty, it is really important to understand and tackle these travesties. Politics affects all of us every day, whether we choose to engage or not; it affects the prices of goods in the shops, the wages and security of the jobs that are available to us. But this is not a passive situation. We can all choose if and how we try to influence these things.

Many of us will be affected by the low waged economy we see today – it may be us or a member of our household who is on low wages and vulnerable contracts. And a low waged household may have to find places to buy low cost goods, which is likely to be a place paying low wages, and so the cycle continues.

If we can start to challenge the reliance on low waged jobs in some of our high street companies – which, let’s remember, will likely be generating large profits – we can start making a change for the fairer to how our communities operate. By engaging with employees and encouraging union organisation in the workplace, and by linking union members across different workplaces people can support each other to take the sometimes difficult and courageous move to gain a voice and some power as employees.

Union membership has already started to make a difference to the shocking conditions exposed in Sports Direct and ASOS factories and made a real difference to people’s working lives. In the fast food industry, many companies in the USA have started to pay a proper living wage due to the organisation of union members in their workplaces.

That can happen here.

So, the Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise campaign is calling out the high street companies, calling for a proper Living Wage for all (not dependent on age) of £10 an hour and calling for union recognition in the workplace.

The campaign chimes with many of the key messages of AFC Unity – Unity (of course!), Empowerment, Solidarity and Teamwork.

In solidarity AFC Unity is planning to offer discounts on some club purchases to union members – more to follow!

We really hope you can join us at the demo on Saturday 17th December and / or can help to publicise the campaign by taking leaflets and following/sharing #Sheff4Ten and @Sheff4Ten on social media.

The campaign will build on the demo and continuing fighting for these aims in 2017 and beyond.

If you want to find out more please or want to get more involved in the campaign, please ask!