Once again this year I will be joining in with most of the UK Money Bloggers community to make a food bank advent collection. It has become a tradition over the past few years to have a little box or basket in the corner to fill with some basic foodstuffs, toiletries and goodies.
I used to coordinate this at work as well when I worked in a large office. We would take 6 or 7 large boxes down each December. However, now I work from home it’s just me! But every contribution helps and the food banks will be grateful for even just one box from our household.
Why do we need food banks?
It makes me quite angry that more and more people in the UK are being forced to turn to food banks. We are a wealthy country and I feel strongly that government should be looking after its citizens in their times of crisis.
Demand for help from food banks is up 19% on last year, and the number of emergency food parcels they have given has increased by 73% in five years*. This will go up further during December, when families have their children home from school over the Christmas holidays and they won’t be getting free school meals.
The Trussell Trust, which runs many food banks, says the five week wait for the new Universal Credits payments is exacerbating the problem. Going for five weeks with no money means people don’t have enough to cover bills as well as food.
“Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty. But the main reasons for people needing emergency food are benefits not covering the cost of living and delays or changes to benefits being paid” – The Trussell Trust
You can join the Trussell Trust’s #5weekstoolong campaign here.
What is a food bank advent collection?
With a usual advent calendar, you are opening a window each day and taking out a chocolate or small gift. But Christmas is not just about receiving, it’s about giving! So in that spirit, with a reverse advent calendar you put something in each day.
I have a little basket set up in the living room. Each week when I go shopping, I buy at least seven items for the food bank advent collection. If you have children, it’s fun for them to place something in the box each day – I tend to put mine in the box in one go!
When to start
I started my food bank advent collection on 1st November and will continue for about 6 weeks. That way it will arrive at the food bank with time for it to be distributed to those who need it before Christmas. However, you can start it whenever you want. Even if you begin on 1st December and deliver it after Christmas, it will still be appreciated.
Ideally, starting between now and the middle of November is probably best, especially if you intend to include any extra treats for Christmas.
Where to find your local food bank
You can check the Trussell Trust website to find out where your nearest food bank is. If you can’t get down to the food bank yourself, most Cooperative stores and other supermarkets have collection points.
If you prefer to make a cash donation you can do so on the website.
To use a food bank for yourself, you need a referral from your GP, social worker, health visitor or an organisation such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, who will give you a voucher to use at the food bank.
What to put in your food bank advent
The Trussell Trust aims to give three days worth of nutritionally balance food in their emergency parcels.
Food donations must be non-perishable tinned or dried items, although food banks also welcome donations of toiletries and hygiene products. You can check the Trussell Trust website to see if they are short of any particular items, but otherwise these are the basics that are most useful in your food bank advent collection:
- Tinned tomatoes/ pasta sauce
- Lentils, beans and pulses
- Tinned meat
- Tinned vegetables
- Tinned fruit
- UHT milk
- Fruit juice
My local food bank is currently requesting squash, tins of potatoes, tins of custard, snack bars, jam and peanut butter, so I will add them to my shopping list as well.
Because Christmas is coming, I am also planning to put in some little treats, like small Christmas puddings, little boxes of chocolates and maybe some posh biscuits (on top of, not instead of, the basics though!).
Non food items could include:
- Toiletries – deodorant, toilet paper, shower gel, shaving gel, shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, tooth paste, hand wipes
- Household items – laundry liquid detergent, laundry powder, washing up liquid
- Feminine products – sanitary towels and tampons
- Baby supplies – nappies, baby wipes and baby food.
Imagine not having enough money to buy food for your family at any time of the year, let alone Christmas! I have never had a lot of money but feel so lucky that I have never had to face real poverty or hunger.
I feel it’s good to get as many people involved with the reverse advent campaign as possible. You can help by starting your own box, encouraging friends and family to start a collection or by placing a few around your office so that colleagues can bring in some donations.
Importantly, if you have kids at home let them choose some of the items and decorate the box so that they appreciate that Christmas isn’t just about getting a ton of presents, but also about being thoughtful of others. Maybe they can start a collection at school?
Of course, it’s good to donate to the food banks throughout the year, not just at Christmas. Are you joining in the food bank advent campaign this year?
For more information and background on the UKMB #foodbankadvent campaign, see here.
*Figures from the Trussell Trust.