Food banks' advent calendar with a difference
Norfolk food banks have come up with a 'reverse advent calendar' idea to encourage generosity this Christmas ...
Food banks in Norwich, Cromer, King’s Lynn and Thetford are putting a warm-hearted spin on a festive tradition by asking people to fill their own ‘reverse advent calendar’ with food items for those who would otherwise go hungry.
A new study estimates that 4.1% of the population is facing the worsening problem of food poverty, with low income families with children and pensioners living alone most at risk.
Rather than removing a daily treat, the food banks are asking kind-hearted people to add an item of non-perishable food to a box each day in the lead up to Christmas which can then be delivered to distribution centres by December 1 in time for the boxes to be distributed to those in need before Christmas.
The festive period can be a difficult time for individuals and families who live on extremely tight budgets and find themselves facing increased winter fuel bills which leave them choosing between heating or eating. Keeping warm can mean a family being pushed into a food crisis.
Donations made to food banks are used to provide three days of nutritionally-balanced, emergency food for people in crisis who have been referred by frontline professional agencies such as Citizens Advice or social services.
Hannah Worsley, Norwich Foodbank project manager, said that the city’s resource had given out enough food last year to feed almost 8,700 people for three days each, a total of around 70 tonnes of food. Additionally, baby items and toiletries were donated for those in crisis.
“Last December we gave out food parcels for more than 1,000 people,” she said, “historically, December is often a Foodbank’s busiest month due to added pressure on family budgets with extra heating expenses, children being off school and the desire and expectation to buy presents. One mum last year, after receiving a food parcel and Christmas goodies, said ‘it’s amazing and comforting knowing that in the hard times we have had there are people who care and have so much kindness in their hearts.’
“Last year, Norwich Foodbank was very well supported with Christmas donations, but many of the festive treats such as mince pies, Christmas cake and chocolate came in very close to Christmas week, when parcels and Christmas goody-bags had been packed and sent to distribution centres, ready for clients to collect with an agency-issued voucher.
“Therefore we have joined with others in the county to promote the Reverse Advent Calendar campaign, where items are given each day from November 7 and then some of the Foodbank’s most needed items, combined with festive treats, can be donated from December 1, plenty of time to be sorted, packed and given out to those in need.”
Food banks are asking donors to give store-cupboard staples, such as long-life fruit juice, tinned meat, bags of sugar, pasta sauce, instant mash, instant coffee and tinned tomatoes, in addition to festive treats.
Hannah adds “'we understand that many people won't be able to donate a 'full' calendar of items due to finances or time – we are of course still happy to accept any of the items suggested as one-off donations. Also, as with many charities, we do need financial gifts to keep our service running so if you would like to give a monetary gift instead, you can do so online with MyDonate or LocalGiving”.
The food banks in the county come under the umbrella of The Trussell Trust, a Christian charity which oversees the running of more than 400 banks across the country. Non-perishable food is donated by schools, churches, businesses and individuals, volunteers sort the food and pack it into boxes for people in need, professionals identify families and individuals in crisis and issue food bank vouchers and then clients bring vouchers to centres where they are redeemed for three days’ worth of emergency food.