Foodbanks in St Helens will receive 500 bus tickets to help those with the greatest transport needs in the town.
Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram announced that the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, along with bus operators Arriva and Stagecoach, will provide 3,000 bus tickets – 500 for each of its six local authority areas – for the city region’s foodbanks to use.
The announcement comes ahead of Sunday’s Merseyside Derby, as Fans Supporting Foodbanks are calling for more support for the city region’s foodbanks, which are dealing with unprecedented demand.
Fans Supporting Foodbanks is a unique partnership between Everton Supporters' Trust and Spirit of Shankly, who have come together to tackle foodbank shortages.
Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said: “As the UN special rapporteur Philip Alston said earlier this month, this country’s foodbanks are acting as a safety net, literally saving people living in abject poverty from starving to death.
"It is an affront to common decency that this should be the case in the fifth richest country in the world, but while this is the reality we will support those committed volunteers who provide this service across our city region.
“This weekend the whole city region is coming together to support our foodbanks and I am proud that we are playing our part by making 3,000 bus tickets available across all six of the city region’s local authority areas. It’s heart-breaking that we should have to do this but this is a duty that we cannot shirk.”
Half of the cost of the 3,000 bus tickets will be paid for by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, with the other half paid for by Arriva and Stagecoach.
The tickets will be distributed to foodbanks across the city region, who will distribute them, at their discretion, to clients with the greatest transport needs.
Howard Farrall, managing director, Arriva Merseyside, said: "Christmas can be a very difficult time of year for many and so it is more important than ever to reach out and help those in need. We're proud to be supporting this initiative and hope to make things easier for those looking to travel to food banks around the Liverpool City Region."
Rob Jones, managing director of Stagecoach Merseyside, Cheshire and South Lancashire, said: “We’re delighted to be working in partnership with the Metro Mayor and our city partners to provide free bus tickets to make it easier for people living in poverty to get around.
"We know access to transport is vital and helps to connect communities and enable people to take up opportunities they may not otherwise be able to.
"As an Everton Football Club sponsor, we already work closely with the club and their charitable arm, Everton in the Community as well as supporting a range of charities and community organisations across the city region, and it’s wonderful to see that the spirit of community is so alive in our city.”
Dave Kelly, Chair of Fans Supporting Foodbanks, said: “We applaud Steve Rotheram for his actions and for his help, advice and support.
“The impact of austerity and the migration over to Universal Credit on the 5th of December will have a profound effect on the most vulnerable people within our communities.
“Our statistics indicate that on average a Foodbank user will have a six-mile round trip to collect a three-day emergency supply of food."