Every year, I hang up the same advent calendar that one of my best friends made me in high school more than 20 years ago. It’s moved with me many times over the years; from where I grew up in a small town in Nova Scotia, Canada to a couple of apartments during university. Eventually, it made its way all the way to England where it hung in several flats around Brighton and now my daughter finds treats each day at our home in West Sussex – and she is already excited about the regular chocolates in December.
But not everyone looks forward to Christmas. The truth is that some families who are struggling with money due to a job loss, bereavement or low income will dread the holiday season due the expense. As a result, many kids will wake up on Christmas morning without any presents at all while others will go hungry.
Figures from the Trussell Trust’s Foodbank network shows that they gave out 1.2 million packages of three-day emergency food supplies in the last year alone. Sadly, of this number, 437,000 went to children.
So, when I heard that the UK Money Bloggers group had decided that this year’s “giving back” campaign would be a reverse advent calendar – I knew I wanted to get involved. And you can too – here’s how.
WHAT IS A REVERSE ADVENT CALENDAR?
The concept is simple: rather than the usual advent calendar where you open a window a day to see a picture, get a chocolate or some other goodie, you add a non-perishable food item or hygiene product to a box which you will then donate to your local food bank.
BUT WHY NOVEMBER?
In my house, we will start on November 1st to ensure that the donation will be delivered to our local Foodbank before the holidays. This means there will be enough time for food banks to organise the contents and get it out to people who need it most – all of whom have been referred by a professional such as a social worker, health visitor or schools liaison officer.
Many food banks are only open for a couple of days a week, what’s more, Christmas Eve is on a Sunday this year, so our plan is to deliver our donations at the beginning of December.
The Trussell Trust has over 400 food banks across the UK, if you don’t know where your local food bank is, you can find one here.
WHAT TO DONATE
Each food parcel that is distributed contains sufficient nutrition for adults and children, for at least three days of healthy, balanced meals.
A typical food parcel includes:
- Pasta sauce
- Tinned meat
- Tinned vegetables
- Tinned fruit
DON’T FORGET HYGIENE PRODUCTS
One in ten girls or women aged 14 to 21 in Britain cannot afford sanitary towels or tampons, according to research by the charity Plan International UK. I know that this seems hard to believe, given that the UK is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but sanitary products don’t come cheap. This isn’t helped by the 5% VAT charge on them for being considered a “luxury item”, while chocolate biscuits and take-away pizzas are tax free – go figure.
If you think that a box of 20 sanitary towels or tampons costs roughly £2 to £3, and women might need at least a few packs a month: that’s a total monthly cost of around £10. And that is just the cost for one women: in a household with more than one female, the costs can quickly escalate.
While it might not seem like a great deal of money, it is sadly the case that a growing number of people – particularly younger people – are struggling to afford the basics. A recent investigation by RightsInfo revealed up to 6,000 women were collecting sanitary products monthly from food banks and homeless shelters.
With this in mind, we will be picking up a few boxes each time we go shopping and will add it to the box.
You can help people in crisis to maintain dignity and feel human again by donating other essential non-food items such as these:
- Toiletries – deodorant, toilet paper, shower gel, shaving gel, shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, tooth paste, hand wipes
- Household items – laundry liquid detergent, laundry powder, washing up liquid
- Feminine products – sanitary towels and tampons
- Baby supplies – nappies, baby wipes and baby food.
GET THE KIDS INVOLVED
I will be getting my four-year-old involved in the advent calendar too as I want to teach her the importance of helping our local community.
Over half term we are decorating the box and creating a calendar so we can check off each day that we have added an item.
Throughout November, she will make little Christmas goodwill cards for the benefactors and she has “suggested” that she might like to donate some of her small toys and books. I’ll keep you updated over on my Facebook page as well as Twitter and Instagram, so watch this space!
CAN I COUNT YOU IN?
Fancy joining me? All you need to get started is an empty box and a desire you help those in need.
Anything you can give will be appreciated, and it doesn’t matter if you can only do it for part of the month or if your donation is 25 of the same thing – especially if it is something that your local foodbank desperately needs as they will be divided up in to individual parcels for distribution.
If you get involved, please post your photos on social media and use the hashtag #FoodbankAdvent.