Christmas is nearly upon us and if you’ve got little ones, then I’m sure they’ll be starting their Christmas lists and the excitement will be starting to grow.
But let’s not forget, Christmas is a time for giving. That’s why the UK Money Bloggers Community is coming together again to promote the idea of creating your own Reverse Advent Calendar.
Now, this is the first time I’ve done this after being introduced to it by the UK Money Bloggers group. So, what’s it all about, how does it work and why should you take part?
What is a Reverse Advent Calendar?
First off let’s go into a little bit of background about the campaign. The idea of a Reverse Advent Calendar was started in 2017 by the UK Money Bloggers community as a way to support Food Banks in the run-up to Christmas.
To give you some background on this, referrals to food banks can spike by around 50% in the run-up to Christmas meaning there is a huge number of people who are struggling to feed themselves at Christmas time.
So, to try and increase awareness about this shocking problem and help those who need it most the idea of a Reverse Advent calendar was created.
Plus, did you know that over 90% of the food distributed by the Trussell Trust network is donated by the public?
So, donations from the likes of you and me are absolutely vital for food banks to be able to provide food parcels to those who need them.
So How Does a Reverse Advent Calendar Work?
It’s an ingenious concept, to be honest. I’m sure you’re familiar with a traditional advent calendar where the little ones (OK and the grown-ups too 😊), open a window each day to get a small toy or a piece of chocolate. You can even get things like beer advent calendars these days (gotta get me one of those!)
Well, a reverse advent calendar works in the opposite way, i.e. “in reverse”. Instead of opening a window and getting some chocolate, for 25 days during November you put an item of food in a box.
Then at the end of the month, you donate your box of goodies to your local food bank in time for the start of December. That way they’ve got the donations in time for the run-up to Christmas.
So have a rummage through your cupboards and see what you can spare for your reverse advent calendar.
What to Put in a Reverse Advent Calendar
So, what are the best things to put in your reverse advent calendar? This was one of my first questions – i.e. what are the best things to donate? What do people need the most?
Well, to get an idea of what to donate take a look at what goes into a food parcel.
They typically include things like:
- Tinned tomatoes/ pasta sauce
- Lentils, beans and pulses
- Tinned meat
- Tinned vegetables
- Tinned fruit
- UHT milk
- Fruit juice
Don’t forget non-food items either. A lot of food banks also provide household essentials such as:
- Toiletries such as deodorant, toilet paper, shower gel, shaving gel, shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand wipes
- Household items such as laundry liquid detergent, laundry powder, washing up liquid
- Feminine products such as sanitary towels and tampons
- Baby supplies such as nappies, baby wipes and baby food.
It’s also a good idea to find out what’s needed most in your local area. You can find your local food bank here.
For example, at my local Food Bank they’ve got an urgent need for:
- Tinned Cold Meat (Corned Beef / Ham etc)
- Red and Brown Sauce
- Cartons of Juice
- UHT Milk
- Sponge Puddings
- Tea and Coffee
But they’ve got plenty of:
- Hot Meat
This is likely to vary though from Food Bank to Food Bank, so it’s a good idea to check on your local Food Bank’s website. That being said, even if they’ve got plenty of something you can still donate it if you’ve got some spare. If your local food bank has a surplus of something, they’ll usually send it to another food bank that might need it more.
Here’s what I’ve added to mine to get it started. As you’ll see I’ve just used a plain old cardboard box, nothing fancy. The important thing is just to get started.
Where to Donate Your Reverse Advent Calendar
Ok, so you’ve filled up your Reverse Advent calendar, but where do you take it to make sure it gets to the people who need it?
- You can donate directly to your local food bank
- At collection points in your local supermarket. My collection point is in my local Tesco.
Tesco is also running a food collection campaign from 21st to 23rd November and will top-up customer donations by making a financial contribution equivalent to 20% of the value of the food.
What Not to Put in your Reverse Advent Calendar
There are a few things to avoid though. Food with a short shelf life or easily perishable food such as dairy products are best avoided. As are food items that are past their shelf life – I won’t be putting in the 2 years past its best pack of Cous Cous I just found in the cupboard in then!
And finally, when fellow Money Blogger Faith Archer spoke to a local food bank, she learned that traditional advent calendars aren’t ideal either.
As heartbreaking as it is, as they give hope for presents in the countdown to Christmas. This can lead to disappointment on the big day for children receiving food parcels.
So, over to you. Are you planning to take part in this year’s Reverse Advent calendar campaign? If you do decide to take part please share it on Social Media and use the hashtag #FoodbankAdvent.