Reverse Advent Calendar

28 November

This year I want to share something with you that not only will I be doing for the first time this year myself, but an initiative I think is incredibly important for communities to get involved in and something that, although I wish people didn't need, could really make a change to someone's Christmas this year. I am of course talking about taking part in the Reverse Advent Calendar.

A Christmas picture for reverse advent calendars

Many of us are in privileged positions where we don't have to worry about where our next meal will come from, even if you have to stick to a strict budget, you know you will have food on the table. We can look forward to Christmas and all its festive events, we know we'll have a lovely Christmas Day meal and enjoy all the sweet treats that supermarkets fill themselves with at this time of year. For many, far too many, the opposite is true. Providing food for themselves or their families can be a cause of great stress, struggling to get by on little - or no - money, especially when the school holidays and the option of school meals to feed their children, no longer an option until they return to school in the new year. It can be an incredibly scary, worrying and dark time of year for families who are living in poverty.

People can be in these positions for a multitude of reasons, with the use of food banks rising each year, even more so since Universal Credit has been rolled out, with many people waiting up to two months for their payments to come through. It is, quite frankly, an abhorrent state of affairs and one which our Government is yet to rectify. You can find out more about food banks, who they help, and why people have to turn to food banks, over on The Trussell Trust website.

So a means to get by was established, with food banks being set up across the UK and there is always more need for more food banks and more donations, especially during school holidays and during winter, when for many families, they have to choose between basic necessities, such as food for their family or whether they can afford to put the heating on. That's where the Reverse Advent Calendar comes in.

The festive season is a time for giving, and even more so a time when we remember to be kind, compassionate and understanding of others. Why not take the traditional advent and do things a little differently this year by taking part in Reverse Advent? If you're in a position to do so, it's a super simple way to give back this festive season and could make Christmas much easier for someone struggling, whether that's an individual living alone, or a family with children to worry about. 

Each day in December, place one item in a box, ready to be donated to your local food bank on Christmas Eve (or the last day your local food bank is open before Christmas). Your local food bank can give you specific ideas about what they need most at this time of year, but I've added some examples below which are handy for any food bank donations, as well as a couple of extra seasonal ideas to spread festive cheer.

  • Cereals and oats for porridge and/or baking.
  • Soup; please avoid fresh, as food banks may not have refrigerators. Tinned or packets are best.
  • Dry pasta; please also consider gluten-free options.
  • Rice; although microwave options look enticing, your donation will go further if it's an unprepared standard packet/bag of rice.
  • Tinned tomatoes, which can double up as bases for pasta sauces or homemade soups.
  • Lentils, beans and pulses; you can buy these in both packets and tins. Where the lentils and pulses are concerned, packets would stretch further. Couscous would also fit nicely here.
  • Sauces; condiments, cooking sauces, which you can find in tin and jar form, even packet of seasoning mix would be great to add some variety. Jam, honey and peanut butter would make fab additions too.
  • Tinned meat; you can find a huge variety of tinned meat, as well as meals themselves, such as pies, casseroles, stews, bolognese etc. 
  • Tinned vegetables and fruit; although it would be lovely to provide fresh food, food banks usually do not have fridges or freezers. Tinned vegetables and fruit are a big help, as well as long-life pots/jars of fruit.
  • Beverages; tea, coffee, squash. 
  • Long-life milk; UHT milk, dairy-free options are also great to give people an option.
  • Biscuits and confectionery; many supermarkets do incredibly cheap packets of biscuits and crisps, sweets or rice cakes, crackers and bags of corn for homemade popcorn. 
It's not just food that food banks are happy to accept, non-food items are also greatly appreciated and welcomed. This includes;
  • Toiletries; deodorants, toilet paper, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, soaps, toothbrushes and toothpaste (remember, children need toothbrushes and toothpaste that are specific to their age), shaving gel and razors, shower gel and body lotions, hand creams and disinfectant hand-gel.
  • Period products; tampons and sanitary towels are in desperate need. A variety of absorbencies and taking different ages in mind is very helpful. Please also consider incontinence pads.
  • Baby essentials; nappies, baby wipes, baby food and weaning snacks.
  • Household essentials; laundry liquid or powder, washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets, kitchen roll, multi-purpose cleaning products.
If you wanted to make your reverse advent calendar donation more festive, then you could consider adding some seasonally appropriate treats, such as biscuit and chocolate boxes, mince pies and Christmas puddings, selection boxes, festive crackers and pretzels, etc and even a box of Christmas crackers would be nice additions to your reverse advent calendar. 

Don't forget to check out the Trussell Trust website to find out where your local food bank is, what kind of donations they are looking for, and when is the last day they will be accepting donations before Christmas. 

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