‘It’ll be groundbreaking’: Atlético Ottawa battling food insecurity with 2024 primary kit

Atlético Ottawa became the latest Canadian Premier League club to reveal one of their kits for the 2024 season, launching their primary jersey, also known as the ‘Community First’ Kit, on Monday.

As its name suggests, the kit has the Ottawa community in mind — aesthetically with the club’s iconic red and white stripes, but more importantly because of the fact that it will tackle the food insecurity crisis ongoing in the nation’s capital, in partnership with front-of-shirt sponsors Maple Lodge Farms and the Caldwell Family Centre. For every kit sold, Maple Lodge Farms will donate a case of frozen chicken, enough food to provide dinner to 30 people, or six Ottawa families.

Just 24 hours after revealing the kit Monday morning, the club announced that it is already set to distribute almost 2,000 meals to low-income residents in the nation’s capital.

“I feel so much pride in being part of a partnership to address the food insecurity crisis in Ottawa,” said Eugene Williams, Executive Director, Caldwell Family Centre, in a press release. “We are very excited to be part of this initiative with Maple Lodge Farms as we are going to be able to help hundreds, if not thousands of families who are currently experiencing food insecurity in Ottawa.

“When I come to TD Place this season, and I see the players and the fans wearing this jersey, it’s going to make me feel such gratitude for the support of a community-focused club like Atlético Ottawa who aren’t just talking about tackling food insecurity. They are doing something about it.”

Atlético Ottawa midfielder Ollie Bassett wearing the new kit. (credit: Matt Zambonin / Freestyle Photography)

Atlético Ottawa’s Chief Marketing Officer, Jon Sinden, says that the idea to use their primary kit to tackle food insecurity came from a successful campaign last year involving the club’s third shirt, the Making It To Safety jersey — which raised awareness and funds for the work that Shelter Movers do to tackle intimate partner violence in the capital. Sinden and his team asked themselves ‘What if all jerseys actually had meaning?’, and went from there.

“There’s certain criteria that we feel we have to keep with tradition, our red and white stripes and some certain elements like the badge and various things that are the more foundational pieces, but here’s something that I feel is groundbreaking. It’ll be groundbreaking for families in Ottawa who need the service, that’s for sure,” Sinden told

“How much sense does it make for Maple Lodge Farms to step up, and they’ve done an incredible job. Our goal was to provide dinner to thousands of low-income residents in Ottawa, they said ‘Let’s help you with that goal’. That jersey has meaning, it might not look like it when you look at it, but we need to peel back the layers. This jersey battles food insecurity, and I hope this is setting a new bar for kit launches and the impact that we can have as a club on our community.”

Sinden and the club’s marketing team spent the off-season looking for areas in their community where they could make an impact, paying attention to the news and current events for organizations they could work with. One that constantly popped up was the Caldwell Family Centre. The centre will be the first group the club works with to distribute the frozen chicken to families, and they will also provide storage for the food before it gets delivered to other centres as needed.

It’s this teamwork between the club and partners like Maple Lodge Farms and Caldwell Family Centre that Sinden says truly makes Atlético Ottawa ‘for the community, by the community’.

“Sometimes that just becomes a marketing tagline,” he said. “In our case, we wanted to not just scratch the surface and dive headfirst underneath and really peel back the layers. We have a lot of smart people who work for the club, we talk a lot with our community, we talk a lot with community leaders like the Caldwell Family Centre, like Shelter Movers, like our season seat members. There’s a lot of passion and you can’t bottle it up, so how do we just do our best, we’re not just changing the logo a certain colour for a month there.

“It’s important to me personally, because I feel like that’s what a soccer club should do. We’re not in the business of selling tickets, that’s a byproduct of what we do. We’re in the business of emotionally connecting to our fans and community and finding ways to bring that to life. We’ve been able to do that with the primary kit this year, and we hope to do it on a thousand other activations.

“How can you say your club is for the community when you’re not representative and doing things every waking minute for the community? That’s what our goal is.”

Luca Piccioli (left), Matteo de Brienne and Kris Twardek (right) at the Season Seat Member launch event hosted by Caldwell Family Centre (credit: Chris Hue / Atlético Ottawa)

Sinden is adamant about another thing: that the support and collaboration with the club’s supporters is crucial to these initiatives being successful. The Capital City Supporters Group and Bytown Boys are in regular communication with the club about things both they and the club are working on, and the different parties work together to make sure they’re getting the word out.

On Sunday the club held an exclusive event for Season Seat Members at the Caldwell Family Centre, where fans could donate money and food items to the centre, as well as be the first to purchase the new kit.

“We have an amazing supporter culture that started a couple of years back. It grows every year, numbers grow, passion grows, and we’re right there with them,” Sinden said. “The bigger and better the club grows, the bigger and better the community initiatives can grow. Everyone seems to understand that, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Capital City Supporter who doesn’t think community is the most important.

“It’s in their DNA, and if it’s in their DNA that means it’s in our DNA, and if it’s in ours, that means it’s theirs, and this jersey would be no different. This is a young league, we’re a young team, these are just building blocks for stuff that we hope is projects and initiatives that leave a legacy in a marketplace, and we have massive plans for next year already, based on things we’re touching on right now.”

Sinden also knows that the work is only beginning. The 2024 season is Atlético Ottawa’s fifth as a club, and just the sixth in league history. He says that they’re just getting started in eastern Ontario.

“I feel like it’s a mantra now here, it’s in our DNA now, the benchmark has been set and now we can’t go back,” Sinden said. “It’s an amazing time to be a soccer fan in Canada, there’s so many positives, so many things headed in the right direction, and here we are — a local club in Ottawa — we feel we’re doing some amazing stuff and we’re setting the bar in a couple different categories.

“It’s still scratching the surface of what it’s going to look like, we often talk about the things we’re doing now, what’s that going to look like not in five years, what’s it going to look like in 50 years? The sapling that we’re going to plant today, what kind of massive oak tree is that going to look like in 50 years, and that’s very important to leave that legacy and help build the community.”