Christmas is a time for giving- we all know this. But we often tend to give to our friends and family and don’t necessarily give a thought about those who might need our help the most. Before now, I honestly hadn’t considered donating to my local food bank at Christmas- but this year, that will change as I am taking part in the #FoodBankAdvent campaign with many other UK Money Bloggers, you can find out more about the history behind #FoodBankAdvent here.
No one should go without food on their table at any time of the year, but with children home for the school holidays and expectations to have a Christmas with gifts, decorations and lots of food, money for many households can be extremely tight in December.
Food banks see a huge increase in demand over the Christmas period, which is hardly surprising given that an estimated 14 million people (that’s one in five) live below the poverty line in the UK. It’s estimated by Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty that over 500,000 people in the UK are reliant on food parcels.
So what is a reverse advent calendar?
A reverse advent calendar is when you ‘give’ each day instead of opening a little door on an advent calendar and eating the chocolate inside (although you can still do this too, of course!). The idea of the #FoodBankAdvent is that you add one thing a day into a box at home, and at the end of the 25 days, you donate this parcel to your local food bank. You can find your local food bank here.
You can do this at your own home, or you could create a collaborative parcel and team up with others in your local community or workplace. I’m planning to do one at home, and also hopefully get my colleagues on board to do one at work.
What should you include in your food bank parcel?
This parcel is going to be distributed to those in need in December, so I will definitely be including some treats like mince pies, Christmas pudding, custard and chocolate. However, many rely on food banks to provide basic food and toiletries for themselves and their family, so it’s a good idea to have a balance.
Many food banks suggest non-perishable items with a long shelf life- think tinned fruit and veg, long life milk, cereals, sauces and soups.
I got in touch with a couple of food banks in my local area (West London) to see what food items are most in demand over the Christmas period. They suggested the following:
Long life milk
Long life fruit juice
Packet mashed potato
And advised that they currently had enough of the following:
Beans and pulses
Many food banks also now accept toiletries and feminine hygiene products, mine does, so I will be including sanitary towels, shampoo and soap, but check with your local food bank before adding these items to your parcel.
When should you start your reverse advent calendar?
The reason I have published this post on 1st November is that I will be doing the reverse advent calendar this month in November, so that I can donate the food parcel on 1st December to ensure that the food can be processed and distributed in time for Christmas.
You don’t have to add one item a day, you can collect all of the items in one shopping trip and donate them, or you could just add some bits and pieces to the food bank bin in your local supermarket if you wish to.
And if you would prefer to do the food bank advent during December, a food parcel will always also be more than welcomed by any food bank in January- you just might want to steer clear of any Christmas-specific items!
Lastly, make sure that you double check your local food bank donation times (especially over Christmas) to make sure that your thoughtful parcel can be donated in time!
How can I join in?
ANYONE can give to a food bank. But if you want to inspire and encourage friends and family to get involved with this campaign over Christmas, you can use the hashtag #FoodBankAdvent on social media to help spread the word and get as many people donating to their local food bank as possible this Christmas.
You can follow along on my Instagram account @thriftylondoner to see what I’m adding to my food bank parcel each day in November, and if you decide to take part in #FoodBankAdvent yourself, please get in touch as I’d love to see what you’re including in your parcels!