A football club in Edinburgh is going above and beyond to tackle social issues and challenges facing families in their local community - through sport and nutrition.
Spartans Community Football Academy, the charitable arm of The Spartans Football Club, has become a focal point for a range of community-based activities and programmes in a deprived area*.
Among their many youth projects are the FooTEA and Saturday AM Breakfast clubs, which provide more than 4000 meals and 300 hours of activities each year to young people, many over the weekends when families need the most support.
A signpost to help
FooTEA clubs started in 2008 and regularly welcome more than 80 participants aged seven to 15 across three sessions on Thursday and Friday evenings. The clubs offer a safe, friendly environment for young people to play, socialise and take part in fun activities.
They also play their part in trying to tackle food insecurities by providing free nutritious evening meals. As part of the sessions, young people can also learn how to do some basic cooking for themselves.
Delivered by the club’s youth work team, the programmes give youth workers an opportunity to build strong relationships with young people and signpost them and their families towards mainstream support services they might not be aware of.
Kenny Cameron, the Academy’s youth work manager, commented on the programme’s successes.
Kenny said: “Our FooTEA clubs are young people-led and this is one of the key reasons why we believe that they are so successful. By listening to our community, we can help address and meet some of the challenges that they may face. Providing a meal is a good example of this.”
Starting the day the right way
The Saturday AM Breakfast club is open on Saturday mornings for young pupils from P5 to S1 who qualify for free school meals. They enjoy a hearty breakfast and take part in fun, games and activities, including baking.
Children and young people are identified and signposted by head teachers from local schools, with a core of about 20 young people attending every weekend.
Learning from the best
One of the ambassadors who supports and promotes the charity’s efforts is award-winning Michelin-starred television chef, Tom Kitchin.
Tom launched the Spartans AM Breakfast Club and is passionate about educating young people about nutrition and food, as well as physical activity.
Tom said: “I’m really proud to be an ambassador for The Spartans Community Football Academy.
"The work the Academy is doing within the Edinburgh community is truly inspiring and being part of something that combines two of my biggest passions, football and food, is exciting!
“It’s been a pleasure meeting the young people who attend the club and hearing their stories.”
In addition to supporting the Breakfast Club, Tom provides young people who attend the Academy’s Alternative School practical experience at his restaurant. The students learn how to cook nutritious meals and have a chance to ask Tom questions about his career as a chef.
Academy Youth Ambassadors
The Academy’s clubs are also supported by a group of young volunteers, Academy Youth Ambassadors, who have gone through a pathway from participating in the programmes to volunteering.
As part of their role they help to run activities as well as being role models and mentoring younger participants. Some share their own stories on how being involved with the Academy has benefited them.
Aaron has regularly attended the Academy and has since gone onto volunteer.
Aaron said: “When I first came to Spartans I was 11 and I went to FooTEA club with my friends. I went to Breakfast Club too and about a year-and-a-half ago Lewis [an Academy youth worker] asked me if I wanted to volunteer.
"I helped clear up and played games with the younger kids. I want to be a PE teacher and the Academy will help me do that.”
Find out more
- The Spartans Community Football Academy programmes
- Understanding the needs of the wider community
- Bringing the community together