During November, I’m doing a reverse advent calendar for #FoodBankAdvent, popping an item in a box each day ready to donate to a food bank in early December.
This will be the third year I’ve taken part, joining the UK Money Bloggers Christmas campaign, along with thousands of others. Hopefully by coming together and posting on social media, we can encourage more people to support their local food banks.
I wish I didn’t have to. I think it’s appalling that food banks even exist.
But more people than ever before are going hungry, unable to scrape the money together to feed their families. The Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest network of food banks, gave out a record 1.6 million food parcels from 2018 to 19 – nearly 20% higher than the year before.
The gig economy, zero hours contracts, benefit changes and sanctions all leave people without enough to live on. Universal Credit is also blamed for driving many into debt. The five week wait for the benefit to start, and deductions for any advance payments, are incredibly damaging. Food poverty has become so engrained, there’s even a children’s picture book about visiting a food bank. This cannot be right.
Recently, a new food bank has opened here in Hadleigh, so that’s where I’ll be donating for 2019.
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What is a reverse advent calendar?
With a normal advent calendar, you might open a door each day for 25 days and get a little present – chocolate, booze, Lego, beauty products or whatever else is fashionable for 2019!
But a reverse advent calendar is all about giving, not getting.
For #FoodBankAdvent, I set aside one item each day suitable for a food bank. By doing my reverse advent calendar during November, I can take it along to a food bank in early December, in time for distribution before Christmas.
If you’re intending to include Christmas products, don’t leave it until Christmas Eve! December can be a particularly busy time for food banks. Families struggle when energy bills rise in cold weather and free school lunches stop when schools are closed during the holidays. But if you can’t donate till January, don’t worry, food banks need support all year round.
Previous post: How to support food banks in future
What should I put in a reverse advent calendar for #FoodBankAdvent?
Think long lasting packets, jars, tins and bottles, rather than things that go off. Many food banks also give out toiletries, baby supplies and pet food.
Taking part in #FoodBankAdvent needn’t cost a bomb, if you add a few extra items to your shopping here and there, or take advantage of offers and free food.
It’s worth finding out what your local food bank really needs – see if they have a list on their website or Facebook page. They could be swimming in baked beans round a mountain of pasta, but crying out for other products.
Angela Gregg, co-founder with Neil Bevis of the Hadleigh Food Bank, was kind enough to talk to me about what the Hadleigh Food Bank needs most:
- Pasta sauces
- Curry sauces
- Longlife milk
- Squash and fruit juice
- Dog food (already have lots of cat food)
- Toiletries including deodorants for men and women, toothbrushes and sanitary protection
- Baby supplies including wipes and nappies in larger sizes (5, 6 and 6+)
- Biscuits, sweets and chocolate that bring a smile
Previous post: What does your food bank actually need?
The Hadleigh Food Bank has only been running since July this year, but is already getting referrals from agencies including our local health centre, children’s services and drug & alcohol rehabilitation projects.
Ms Gregg explained: “FIND, the Ipswich food bank, was taking three days to make food deliveries, but we’re able to get food parcels out the same day. Referrals have gone through the roof and we’ve been told Christmas will be even busier.
“We’ve been supported by the Stowmarket and Sudbury independent food banks and people give generously to the collection boxes in Morrisons, the Co-op and Aldi.
“We’re open, available and ready to support anyone in need.”
Hadleigh Food Bank also needs storage space, as currently Ms Gregg is storing supplies in her own home. If anyone local can help, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
No-one should go hungry and least of all at Christmas.
Now – over to you. Are you doing a reverse advent calendar for #FoodBankAdvent? Do you support your local food bank in other ways? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear! And if you post on social media, do include the hashtag #foodbankadvent so I can spot your pics.