The back ground
Many of us love the Xmas advent calendar, especially those with children who get a chocolate each day don’t we? (And just where did those advent calendars go that just had the picture??) But many families are sleeping in bed and breakfast (that’s a just a term by the way, there is no breakfast). The breadwinner has simply lost their job or fallen sick and/or most have fallen foul of the failure known as the benefits system and the chaos that Iain Duncan Smith started. And let’s not forget he resided over it for some time before completely messing up the Universal Credit system for someone else to take the blame! But hey that’s just my opinion! Many of these families are local to you and their children go to your children’s school.
It is just so wrong that whilst many of us over indulge this Christmas, so many people will be struggling to feed their kids at all and/or will go hungry themselves through no fault of their own. With no school meals over the holidays and the need to heat homes, the struggle is even worse at this time than any other. The use of foodbanks rises by 45% in December. The reverse advent calendar is just one small way in which you can give something back and it’s helping your local community too.
What is the Reverse Advent Calendar?
This reverse advent calendar is a great idea. It’s been happening for a few years now all over the world. The UK Money bloggers have launched a campaign to really give it a push this year and as one of the bloggers I am helping to promote it.
Each day for 24 days you put something for the food bank in a box and at the end of this time give it to your local foodbank. Some sites start on the 1st December and hand it in on the 24th December. But please see Tips and ideas below as most of us are doing it through November. We are doing 30 days too so it’s all up to you!
The Trussell Trust’s Foodbank network of over 425 foodbanks handed out 1,182,954 three-day emergency food supplies given to people in crisis in the year April 2016 – March 2017. But remember there are many more foodbanks all over the country which are not part of this network so the numbers are far bigger that need to use these services.
Early Warnings: Universal Credit and Foodbanks, highlights that although the rollout of the new Universal Credit system for administering benefits has been piecemeal so far, foodbanks in areas of partial or full rollout are reporting significant problems with its impact.
• Households using food banks face extreme financial vulnerability. All food bank users
had, in the last month, an income well below the threshold for low income. More than
1/3 of households experienced an income shock in the past three months and over 2/3
reported unexpected and rising expenses during the same period.
• Almost half of households reported their incomes were unsteady from week to week or
month to month.
• Half of households included someone with a disability.
• Lone parents and their children constitute the largest number of people receiving help
from food banks, though single male households are the most common household type.
• Over 78% of households were severely food insecure. For a majority of households, this
was a chronic experience, happening every month or almost every month over the past
• Food bank users experience multiple forms of destitution – 50% had gone without
heating for more than four days in the past 12 months, and 1 in 5 had slept rough in the
last 12 months.
20 Reverse advent calendar tips and ideas
- Think about when you want to do this. Doing it through December may seem like a good idea but if you are going to put some Xmas related food things in there, it may be too late for the food bank to donate. Find out from your local one when would be best to donate, it may want a mix as donations may be fewer in January.
- Google foodbank and your local area, not all foodbanks are run by Trussell, many are by other charities and churches.
- Contact your local foodbank and see if there are items of which they particularly short, and when would be best for you to drop off the box. Although they will be grateful for anything 20 cartons of UHT milk maybe something they are short of possibly more useful than 20 different tins of beans and soup.
- Remember that some foodbanks also welcome toiletries so that families can maintain dignity and this will last them longer than the 3 days of food that they get too.
- Obviously foodbanks need non perishables, but look for long term use by dates too to make it easier for foodbanks to manage.
- Get the children involved, decorating the box, ideas of what to put in and perhaps even donate some pocket money or sweets?
- Drawer full of toiletries gift sets? Donate them
- Share the idea on social media with #FoodbankAdvent to spread the word
- Pastas, dried fruit, tins of soup, vegetables, rice pudding, custard etc., packets and jars of sauces, biscuits, tea/coffee, UHT milk, long life juices, baby food, rice, cereals, noodles, health bars, lentils, cakes, mince pies, Xmas puddings, bread/similar which keeps longer than fresh, such as part baked bread, waffles, wraps etc., crisps and other savoury items, soap, deodorant, shower gel, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sanitary products, toilet rolls, baby wipes and shampoo. Think of things that don’t need to be heated too, such as cold meats and fish so a substantial meal can still be had and boxes of Smash that only need water to make. Also, carrier bags! Or conference totes/canvas bags for life instead for more eco friendly use! There is talk too of some Foodbanks needing pet food. If you want to support pregnant women and families with infants see the First Steps Nutrition advice. (Note, Foodbanks won’t take formula.)
- Remember users of foodbanks are struggling to feed their families, as well as the essentials, so think about putting some treats in such as chocolates too (think of buying when buy one get one free on those tubs for even more!)
- Get the bargains when you see them in the supermarket and bargain shops which will good for toiletries. When you get the buy one get one frees consider giving them both that day!
- Keep an eye out for coupons and discount codes for items that you wouldn’t use yourself but would make ideal items for the foodbank
- Don’t forget to look in your cupboards for food you bought or were given but are now unlikely to use
- If you are going to get things with shorter life span such as part bake bread get them nearer the end of the 24 days!
- It was on one of those food programmes about saving money a few weeks ago showing that if you go down the World Food aisle that you will often find similar products just with a different name to that you are used to but are actually cheaper
- You don’t need a fancy box! Anything will do, everything gets sorted when it arrives at the foodbank and you don’t have to think what goes with what, the volunteers will sort into bags for users for you.
- Consider throwing in some sachets of herbs, remember that a lot of those emergency food bags will be full of bulky plain food, herbs and spices will add some flavour and take up little room in that bag
- Foodbanks are run by volunteers, consider volunteering or donating long term
- Think about getting your workplace colleagues to run some boxes, make it competitive between teams if you work in a big workplace! Or use it as way to spread the cost, you could also do this with your neighbours and your children’s clubs and groups
20. Great Tip! Shopmium and Checkoutsmart
Now, here’s a great little app. If you go to Shopmium you can get food with discounts or even for free. That’s a referral link, so if you go through and sign up on that I’ll get a freebie, you get a freebie and you will see the offers on at the moment which change all the time. Then you will have your own referral code too. I am using the offers to get discounts on perishables plus perishables that I don’t like so that the foodbank can get extra too taking advantage of every bargain I can get to be able to give more. Wins all round! All you need to do is take a photo of the bar code and receipt and you get your cash back. Shopimum uses all the major supermarkets.
Checkoutsmart no referral codes but works same way. Seems to have more looking through at the moment.
Iain Duncan Smith and politics
Can’t really do a post about foodbanks without mentioning this really.
Those of you who have been following my blog for some time will know that I interviewed Iain Duncan Smith when he was Director of Death and Destruction because he is my MP (don’t blame me I didn’t vote for him). The Complaining Cow Meets Iain Duncan Smith #IDSfail and Round 2 The Complaining Cow Meets IDS when I went a second time much to his displeasure. I used the fact that I could go to his surgeries and took him to task in the limited time I had. One of the things, amongst many, was foodbanks.
I did let the food bank know of his request but I don’t think they wanted him there! One can understand why not.
And whilst we are about it. Jacob Rees-Mogg is one of the wealthiest MPs in Parliament. He has reportedly made millions of pounds in high finance and is due to inherit £100 million from his family estate. Know what he said about foodbanks? “The rise of food banks across the UK is actually “rather uplifting” because it shows the British people are charitable” and “The real reason for the rise in numbers is because people know they are there and Labour refused to tell them.” Idiocy for a supposedly educated man. One of those academics with no common sense. Or empathy. Or compassion. Or understanding of issues facing millions of families in the UK.
So who is first against the wall come the revolution do you think? Duncan Smith? Rees-Mogg? May? Farage? Gove? It’s ok I think there will be enough of us to take them all.
Foodbank volunteers donate at least £30million a year in unpaid work Foodbank volunteers ‘perform £30million a year worth of unpaid work’, shock study reveals Volunteers do a staggering 2,909,196 hours of unpaid work distributing food – and calculating the value of their time using the minimum wage, currently £7.50 an hour for the over 25s, it equates to £21,818,967 a year; or 55,945 hours, with a value of £419,587 each week. Should feeding children with no food or heating really be down to volunteers and donations?
Trussell Trust and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau is calling for the Universal Credit to be suspended to tackle and amend the poor administration in the system before it can be rolled out effectively: reducing the 6-week minimum wait for a first payment and providing more support through programmes like Universal Support which would make a real difference to people navigating the new system. More here.
Pause the roll-out of Universal Credit, particularly until appropriate emergency financial support is available and accessible to all people left with no income or food.
Quick word on donating Advent calendars
It may cross your mind to donate some chocolate advent calendars. However, for those of us who have them, it leads up to the big day. Most families, if not all using a foodbank, will be using food possibly not even heated for Christmas day. Just another day, no big build up. I am going to donate a load of selection boxes with the calendar box instead.
So, are you going to do your box with me? I’m starting on the 1st November. Share on social media using the #foodbankadvent hashtag to encourage others. If you have any more tips, or ideas to share please do add them in the comments and please share the word wherever you can, it is such a good idea and helps so many people who really are in a desperate situation.
I’ll leave the last word to Lisi, daughter of Becky Goddard-Hill who blogs at Babybudgeting. So get your kids involved too. My son has decorated (ish!) the box but wouldn’t do anything on camera so well done Lisi!
A third of the way in. The more eagle eyed will note that there are more than 10 items in here! That’s because so far I have got 3 jars of baby food, some chick pea puffs and some baked pea snacks for free so they are bonus items!
One of the UKMoneybloggers, Andrew, MoneyTree Man (remember I listed him in my 25 top finance blogs (saving, making, investing, tips & more ‘cos he made me laugh with his style of writing!) has made this video. I particularly like his tip regarding telling at least one of the shop assistants what you are doing and inspire them to join in and share the word.