The ‘overwhelming’ donation from the Reuben Brothers that helped foodbank feed 2000 families

11 November 2020, Chroniclelive

John McCorry of the Newcastle West End Foodbank revealed just how important the donation was:

Community was to form a major part of the plans of the Saudi Arabia-led consortium that wanted to buy Newcastle United.

Injecting money into the club was just a small part of the overall vision which would have seen the city and region invested in too – charities, local housing and much more was on the agenda of the consortium.

For the Reuben Brothers, who were to take a 10% stake, they, more than anyone, understood the benefits of a vibrant city and region – given that their business interests in the area.
One of those interests – the Newcastle Racecourse at Gosforth – is a major attraction, and one of the most visited courses in the UK.
As the COVID-19 lockdown was introduced, events began to be cancelled – Plate Day and Ladies Day fell to the virus, just as match-days across the UK had too.

Across the city, the West End Foodbank was beginning to feel the full impact of the virus. Demand was growing but fundraising opportunities were dropping and the donation point on match-days at St James’ Park disappeared.

As schools shut and people were furloughed the demand grew – up 202 per-cent on the same time last year – and the limited donations were further hit by a fall in volunteers because many were classed as vulnerable and unable to help out.

The belief of those at the foodbank remained but things looked bleak – and then came a phone-call and confirmation that the Arena Race Course, owned by the Reubens Brothers, would be donating weekly stock to the foodbank funded by their own foundation.

“It was overwhelming,” the Foodbank’s John McCorry told ChronicleLive.

“I’ve got to say it really was, and you know for us the lovely thing is that when it’s coming from other groups in the city like the racecourse it does make us feel, and especially our partnership with the NUFC fans foodbank, it does make us feel part of the city.

“That one city approach where everybody’s pulling together.”

Between April and July 2020, the foodbank issued more than 7,000 food-parcels feeding approximately 20,000 people of which 43 per-cent of those are children living in poverty.

To cope with the demand the foodbank needs 20 tonnes of food each month – when the Reuben Foundation stepped forward with donations totalling 12.1 tonnes between April and June, there was a huge sigh of relief.

“To receive that donation,” McCorry says.

“Had we not received it, we’d be in a very different place in terms of meeting the level of demand but the fact that everybody was pulling together has made this summer more manageable.”

The donation from the Reuben Foundation fed 2,000 extra people in that time – allowing for a total of 672 family food parcels to be made up each week.

While food items made up most of the donation, bathroom essentials such a toilet roll were also donated.

“It’s been a great assistance to us at a time when all our donation channels have of diminished considerably.

“When you boil it all down you could possibly say it would have been 672 families that might have struggled as a result of not having that donation.

“We’d have had to go and source that support elsewhere and really, what this support from the foundation has done is has helped us to focus our energies where they’re needed and help those families in a prompt and timely fashion.

“I know these are challenging times for everyone and for business in particular, and we know that because we fear some of these challenges ourselves although in a different way in the sense of demand growing and helping people in their time of need.

“But really, it’s been inspirational the way many of the businesses have responded to this across the city, the way they’ve helped us specifically, it’s inspiring to see business come together, look at the wider community, and the whole social aspect of what it means and recognise that they’re helping people that support their businesses over time.

“It’s been great to see, and we hope it may continue.

“We are certainly very grateful for everyone’s support and from the business community.”

The racecourse were one of several businesses to help out during the pandemic including the Gainford Group The Watches of Switzerland Group and the Newcastle United Foundation.

Executive Director of Newcastle Racecourse, David Williamson, said, “We are well aware of the impact that the current health crisis and lockdown has had on many people in the local area.

“Whilst racing at Newcastle and the other ARC venues in the region has been suspended, we have been pleased to work with Newcastle City Council and our suppliers, with the significant financial support of the Reuben Foundation, to put together these emergency supply boxes which we hope will benefit a large number of people across our community.

“We very much hope that the boxes will go some way to helping those who are finding things difficult at the moment and to whom we would like to wish all the very best.”

When the scheme was first announced back in May, the hope was that Newcastle was soon to be under new ownership – with the Reuben Brother playing an integral part in a new chapter for the club.

Officially the foodbank had received no word from the consortium but McCorry did add: “As fans, we were waiting with bated breath thinking about what a positive impact this could mean not only to the club, but to the city and the morale and the city again, and all of that, that comes with having positive times and positive feelings around the city’s football team.

“So we were disappointed when it appeared that the deal is now off.

“We just want the best for the club and for the team because it does give a boost to everyone in the city and we’re like everyone else, disappointed at the moment, but we’re staying positive.”

You can donate to the foodbank via their website.