Hands up if you know what a reverse advent calendar is?
We didn’t either until we came across the #FoodBankAdvent campaign backed by a small but impassioned group of UK money bloggers determined to share the wellbeing wealth this winter.
Food is one of life’s simple pleasures, intrinsic to our wellbeing and something many of us take for granted, but imagine being in a situation were you were unable to feed yourself or your family properly due to financial constraints. For 14 million people living in poverty in the UK right now, this is a reality they face every single day.
Now in its second year, the #FoodBankAdvent campaign encourages people to adapt their regular advent ritual by collecting 24 or so food (and personal care) items to donate to their local food bank ahead of Christmas.
According to The Trussell Trust, who operate foodbanks nationwide, 658,048 three-day emergency food supply parcels were donated to people in crisis between April and September 2018 alone. That’s a staggering 13% increase on the same period in 2017.
By creating and donating your own calendar, you could be helping those in your own community who, for whatever reason, may be struggling to make ends meet. If there’s a better way of sharing the true spirit of Christmas, well, we’ve yet to find it.
Are you with us? Here are 5 simple steps to help you get started.
Step 1: Check what your local foodbank needs
All areas differ, so before you start collecting contact your local foodbank and check what they actually need. Some will be inundated with popular items like baked beans and pasta, when in fact what they actually really need is infant formula or instant coffee. Also bear in mind that certain items, for instance anything perishable or containing alcohol, are not allowed.
Step 2: Start now and drop off early
Traditionally advent begins on the 1st December, but for reverse advent you need to start earlier. Foodbanks are at their busiest as the festive season approaches, so in order for volunteers to sort your donations they need them as soon as possible, preferably in early December. If you want to get involved but haven’t started yet you can always double up, adding two items instead of one, to speed up the process. Or, if you want to stick to the traditional schedule, hold off donating your reverse advent calendar until the New Year − they’ll be equally appreciated during a long, cold January.
Step 3: Look for long use-by dates
It sounds obvious, but choose items with the longest use-by dates to give your calendar longevity (and of course, avoid fresh or perishable items at all costs). Foodbanks already have a huge task ahead sorting your donations, so make their job easier by giving them ample time to move their ‘stock’ through the system.
Step 4: Think outside the box
Food is of course a vital component, but essential items like deodorant or shower gel are often desperately needed, so add a couple to your box. Don’t live close to a foodbank? Fret not. The organisation Beauty Banks is working to collect and distribute vital toiletries and supplies to partner organisations working with people in poverty. It’s not a physical bank as such, but by visiting the Beauty Banks Facebook page you can find out how to donate new beauty items, or shop items online that will then be sent to them direct via Easho’s nifty service. They needn’t be full sized products either, even minis would be greatly appreciate by people living rough or in shelters.
Step 5: Don’t forget pets
Want to create a calendar to help the whole family? Then add something for a much-loved pet who may also be living in poverty. While humans are of course the main priority, cats, dogs and all manner of creatures can quickly become the first casualty when the family starts to struggle. As before, it pays to call ahead and ask the advice of your local foodbank, but the chances are at least one of your gifts will be greatly appreciated by a furry friend.