What’s a reverse advent calendar anyway?
It’s quite a simple idea.
With a normal advent calendar, you open a little door each day and might take out a chocolate.
With a reverse advent calendar, you put one item each day into a box, to donate to a foodbank at the end of the month. Doing a reverse advent calendar during November rather than December means the foodbank has time to distribute the contents before Christmas.
Because millions of people in the UK go hungry every year. And it’s getting worse.
I wish food banks didn’t exist, and find it appalling that in a developed nation like the UK so many people can’t afford to feed themselves.
But food poverty is an ever growing issue. During the last financial year, the Trussell Trust handed out more than 1.3 million three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis. Add on all the food parcels from independent foodbanks like FIND, and the total is shockingly high. No-one should go hungry, and Christmas can be a crunch time, with heating bills to pay and no school meals for children during the holidays.
Here in Suffolk, FIND gave out 3,960 food parcels and 1,050 Christmas hampers during 2017. But demand has leapt since Universal Credit was introduced locally in April, and FIND is expecting a real struggle to cope over Christmas (East Anglian Daily Times article). The five or six week delay in starting Universal Credit, and deductions from payments if people get an advance, leave many in desperate need. Analysis by the Trussell Trust showed that demand for food banks surges in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out for a year or more – up more than half, compared to rising 13% on average elsewhere.
I originally started Much More With Less to campaign against food poverty, taking the Live Below the Line challenge, and it remains a cause I’m keen to support. At a time when many of us are overwhelmed with presents and Christmas food, I’m keen for my kids to recognise how lucky they are, and help support others. Christmas should be about giving and not just receiving.
How to get involved
I’m participating as part of the #FoodbankAdvent Christmas campaign by the UK Money Bloggers community (more info here), but you don’t have to be a blogger, or keep it up for a whole month, to support your local food bank.
- Do a reverse advent calendar and share your progress on Twitter and Instagram using the #FoodBankAdvent hashtag
- Put a box in your office, school or community group, to encourage other people to contribute food and other items
- Pop some shopping into the collection box at your local supermarket
- Donate money, as a one off, or set up a standing order to the Trussell Trust or your local independent food bank
- Get sponsored to take part in an event
To find your nearest foodbank, search online with a place name + foodbank, or have a look on the Trussell Trust website.
What to include in a reverse advent calendar
Think long lasting, non perishable items like tins, jars and packets, that won’t go off before they’re distributed.
It’s not just food items – people also need toiletries, sanitary products, baby supplies, even pet food. Bear in mind that many food banks could be swimming in pasta and baked beans, so it’s worth asking which supplies they really want. Here’s my post after checking which items FIND really needs right now.
One of the saddest parts last year was when I spoke to Maureen Reynel MBE from FIND, and she recommended not including chocolate advent calendars: “Opening a door each day leading up to Christmas is difficult. It brings hope about presents.
“But for many children receiving food parcels, there is no pot of gold at the end of the calendar.”
Now – over to you. Will you be doing a reverse advent calendar? Do you support your local food bank in other ways? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear.
If times are tough and you might need support from a food bank, ask for a referral from a health visitor, doctor, social worker or someone from the council, police, health centres, children’s centres or Citizens Advice.