Chelsea star Reece James calls for ‘end to food poverty crisis’

Footballer Reece James joined Independent shareholder Evgeny Lebedev to volunteer for the campaign (Lucy Young)
Footballer Reece James joined Independent shareholder Evgeny Lebedev to volunteer for the campaign (Lucy Young)

England footballer Reece James has called on the public to “try to put an end to this crisis” after endorsing our Help The Hungry campaign.

The Chelsea football star made the comments as he joined The Independent and its largest shareholder Evgeny Lebedev at a west London school to give out hot meals from our food truck alongside our charity partner With Compassion.

Last month he also launched a fundraiser for his 21st birthday that raised more than £19,000 for our charity partner The Felix Project.

The 21-year-old right-back joined volunteers at the Normand Croft Community School in Hammersmith – a stone’s throw away from Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground.

The school was part of The Independent’s 2017 Help A Hungry Child initiative, which led to 120 schools setting up market stalls where struggling local families could collect fresh food.

<p>The Independent’s largest shareholder Evgeny Lebedev joins Reece James on our state-of the-art food truck</p>Lucy Young

The Independent’s largest shareholder Evgeny Lebedev joins Reece James on our state-of the-art food truck

Lucy Young

The stalls, with food supplied by The Felix Project, were set up in school playgrounds and helped parents who were struggling to provide their children with healthy food.

Despite Covid-19, 90 of the market stalls remained open, continuing to give out food and acting as a lifeline for families while much of the rest of the country ground to a halt.

Of these, 35 stayed open all through the summer holidays to meet the increased need. Some 25,000 schoolchildren each week received food thanks to our appeal.

Children from the ages of nine to 12 stood in line as James helped serve chicken, roast potatoes and salad out of our state-of-the-art food truck, with a vegetarian option of provençale vegetable stew with quinoa also on offer.

Having grown up around people who lacked the “privilege” of having enough to eat at home, James said he wants to use his sporting position to combat food poverty. “I think obviously a lot of people judge footballers on money, cars and so on – this helps the community and people around them.”

Evgeny Lebedev said: “At just 21, Reece James is a champion sportsman and a truly public-spirited citizen. I laud him for having the courage to take the lead on such an important cause as hunger. I am proud to work with him.”

One recipient, Kyle, 9, who attends the school and is a Chelsea fan, expressed his delight at Reece’s visit, telling The Independent he felt more footballers should follow in the England star’s footsteps.

Zack, 10, who supports both Chelsea and Manchester United, was similarly proud of what James and Marcus Rashford are doing to combat food poverty, “so the government will know more about what they are doing, and hopefully try to help”.

Headteacher Paul Jobson showed his concern about the position Covid-19 has put families in.

“We had the summer Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which was very well publicised, and then half [term] came and suddenly there was no money left – it seemed the wrong way round,” he said.

“Everything has been very last minute – we’re playing catch-up … it just seems ridiculous that we’re one of the richest countries in the world, and certainly one of the richest cities in the world, and we’ve got children coming to school hungry.”

James added: “Even being in this school right now – it’s very similar to when I was a young kid, so I still think everyone can come together and we can still improve and put an end to it. The closer the community are, the easier it will be for everyone.”

This December we will be delivering food directly to 1,000 people a day through our partner With Compassion. Please donate here to help us do all we can to ensure no one goes hungry this Christmas.

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