How does a reverse advent calendar work?
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Blogger Faith Archer reveals why she’s ditched the traditional Christmas calendar if favour of something much more charitable.
This year, as last year, I am doing a ‘reverse advent calendar’ to support my local food bank FIND in Ipswich.
Instead of opening a door each day for 25 days to scoff chocolate or swig gin, I’ll be putting one item a day into a box for the food bank. By collecting tins, toiletries and festive treats during November, I can deliver the box in early December, in time for distribution before Christmas.
It’s all part of the #FoodBankAdvent campaign by UK Money Bloggers, which encouraged people to donate an estimated 216,000 items of food and toiletries to foodbanks last December.
As a frugal blogger at Much More With Less, I appreciate that even a few tins can make a difference. I also am keen for my children, Isabel aged 10 and eight-year-old George, to realise that Christmas should be giving as well as receiving. I get them involved in choosing items to donate, decorating a box and putting something in our reverse advent calendar each day. So far they have added their favourite jam and a tub of sweets for a family to share.
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No-one should go hungry, especially not at Christmas, yet thousands of families all over East Anglia cannot afford to put food on the table. Christmas can be particularly difficult, as heating bills mount and free school dinners stop during the holidays.
Hannah Worsley, project manager at Norwich Food Bank, explained: “During cold weather, heating the house places extra strains on your budget, and people feel pressure to fund a nice Christmas for their family. We see a lot more people coming to our holiday clubs, which offer free meals and activities for children.”
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Norwich Food Bank normally gives out 600 to 800 food parcels a month, but peaked at more than 1,000 last December. Similarly FIND gave out 1,050 Christmas hampers around Ipswich, on top of 3,960 food parcels during the rest of the year.
FIND is expecting a real struggle to cope over Christmas. Maureen Reynel MBE, founder of FIND, already spends £400 to £800 a week on food shopping to cover shortages.
She said: “This year has been much, much more intense than other years, and those were bad enough.”
If you would like to take part in #FoodBankAdvent, do check which items your local food bank needs. For example, they might be swimming in soup with a mountain of pasta, but have shortages for instant coffee, tinned meat, cans of fruit and UHT milk. Non-food items including toiletries, baby supplies and feminine hygiene products may also be needed. Boxes of biscuits and festive chocolates can brighten a bleak time, but it’s best to avoid mince pies with short expiry dates and Christmas puddings that might contain alcohol.
If you’d like to do your own reverse advent calendar, do share your progress on social media using the hashtag #foodbankadvent to encourage friends and family to take part.
Emma Revie, chief executive if the Trussell Trust, said: “Christmas can be such a challenging time when you’re facing hunger and poverty, so we’re really grateful for all the extra donations that are made to the foodbanks in our network thanks to reverse advent calendars.”
Even if you can’t stretch to 25 items for a reverse advent calendar, consider adding a couple of cans to the collection box at your local supermarket.
You can also donate money online at food bank websites, or donate time by volunteering to help at a food bank.
Local food banks include FIND in Ipswich, the Stowmarket and Area Food Bank, Trussell Trust Food Banks in Colchester, Cromer, Dereham, Ely, Haverhill, King’s Lynn, Lowestoft, Norwich, Thetford and Waveney, Storehouse in Sudbury and Gatehouse in Bury St Edmunds.