Appeals for reverse advent calendars for food banks gather pace as #foodbankadvent begins and volunteers prepare for a busy Christmas
Families wanting to give just as much as they receive this Christmas are being encouraged to create a reverse advent calendar to support their nearest food bank.
Rather than the traditional opening of a chocolate or small gift for every day in the run up to Christmas, households are being asked to turn that system on its head and instead collect an item for every day to give to someone else in need.
The hashtag #foodbankadvent is currently circulating on the internet and social media as part of efforts to encourage many more people to join in this year as an inflation rise, an increase in national insurance contributions, the rising cost of gas and the loss of the £20 Universal Credit uplift place increasing pressure on household budgets this winter.
The reverse advent calendar system has grown steadily in popularity in just a small number of years as charities attempt to raise awareness about the demand placed annually on organisations supporting families struggling to feed themselves.
Trussell Trust, which oversees a large network of food banks supporting families in crisis, says the number of emergency food parcels it gives out has grown hugely and particularly during the pandemic.
Between April 2020 and March this year, 2.5 million packages were handed out and - a staggering 33% increase on the previous year.
Emma Revie, Chief Executive, said: “No one should face the indignity of needing emergency food. Yet our network of food banks has given out record numbers of food parcels as more and more people struggle without enough money for the essentials."
And the concept of a reverse advent calendar is simple.
For anything between around 12 and 24 days, you can collect suitable food items and toiletries that would ordinarily be accepted by your nearest food bank and put them aside in your home or business, ahead of making a Christmas donation once your collection is complete.
And as it is Christmas there is an emphasis to throw in the odd treat or two as well, and so alongside boxes of cereal, tinned food or pasta, can be the addition of Christmas chocolates, biscuits, mince pies, cake or any other dry packaged good that a household might be able to enjoy during the festive season.
No alcohol, however, should be in any of the items donations but toiletries - or smellies - are said to be a welcome addition too as those in need struggle to afford self-care products for themselves.
Foodbanks say that you can start this process as early as you like - ideally in November where possible - so that staff receiving your donation have the time to sort through the items and distribute them to the people they are supporting ahead of the big day.
Advice is also to aim for foods with long expiry dates on them should anything be left over the Christmas period in storage, for food parcels in the new year.
Among the big supporters of the reverse food bank advent calendar idea is the Co-op where numerous stores across the county support the scheme - including with labels on particular products in branches to help guide people towards the most suitable gifts.
To find your nearest food bank you can visit charity The Trussell Trust for help.