My head is teeming with blog post ideas. The time to write them however, is not quite as forthcoming. I’m writing this between an appointment for a pelvic ultrasound (much better than I expected) and Tallulah’s appointment with the orthodontist (such a medical day). Today’s post is purely informational. Hopefully more philosophical musings will follow at some point.
Two years ago I launched a scheme in my local community to make up reverse advent boxes for our local food bank. I did it on a whim and expected I’d gather enough interest to fill a car load. I live in a great neighbourhood and they absolutely pulled it out the bag for me, and we donated just over two van loads of stuff in the week before Christmas. It was a hugely positive experience and I had planned to do it again last year but was just not well enough. This year, despite pelvic ultrasounds and ongoing gynaecological jiggery pokery I am fit enough to do it.
Two years ago, I wrote about the project on this blog, and many of you, despite being nowhere near me geographically, joined in. Between us I think we must have donated tonnes of food to various places in the UK, and it was absolutely amazing. I’m hoping we can do the same this year, as certainly things are no better than they were, and with universal credit and sanctions from the DWP, it’s fair to say things are considerably worse.
The Trussell Trust is the largest food bank provider in the UK. They estimate that there are 13 million families in the UK living under the poverty line. The poverty line estimates the least possible amount you can survive on. It works out to be about a fiver a week per person for food. There are plenty more families living above it who still can’t make ends meet, and many families in the UK have both parents working and still need help from food banks. This year, many food banks have repeatedly run out of food to give out, they have been so inundated with people needing help. With the government talking about stock piling food supplies in the event of a no deal Brexit, we as a community, need to come together to help each other more than ever.
If you want to help, here’s what you do.
For every day of advent you put an item in a box, which you then donate to your local food bank to be distributed to make someone’s Christmas a bit more jolly and a lot less hungry.
This year I will be starting my box in the week beginning the 19th November and donating it in the week beginning the 17th December. By doing it earlier than actual Advent, it gives the food banks time to donate the boxes before Christmas.
If you’d like to join in, the Trussell Trust website has a locator for your nearest food bank, although there are others, not run by them all over the country. You can contact them to find out when they are open to accept donations and find out if there is anything they won’t accept (fresh produce can be an issue, as can alcohol).
Some food banks will pick up donations if you don’t have transport. If you live near me (Leicester) let me know if you can’t travel. I might be able to arrange something for you.
Here are some tips I picked up from the last time I did this:
Every day items are more useful than luxuries. If you want to add treats, because it’s Christmas after all, that’s fine, but keep them reasonable. Some people are ashamed of using food banks and will be put off accepting items that mean they will have to answer questions when they get home.
Bags for life are easier for people to transport than boxes. Many food bank users will either walk or use public transport to get to and from collection points. Make it easy for them.
Small gifts and items like gloves, hats, hot water bottles, scarves etc are great.
Things that can be made using either just a kettle or one ring are really useful. Not everyone has a kitchen, but everyone gets hungry.
Toiletries are often overlooked, but can be expensive and are really welcomed. Sanitary towels and tampons in particular are desperately needed.
Cleaning products are also invaluable.
Many people donate tins of beans and tomatoes. Check with your food bank if they need them, they might be able to point you to other items that they are desperate for instead.
Herbs, spices, condiments and flavourings to make food more exciting are a great thing to add.
Don’t feel you have to donate a whole box of items. Every single thing makes a difference.
If you can’t do one on your own, can you take a box to work, or school and club together to donate something?
If you want to donate but money is tight, can you take one item from a three for two or BOGOF offer and donate that? Have you got something kicking around in the kitchen cupboards you will never use but that is still in date? Do you have old raffle prizes you want to get rid of? Even a single serving from a multi pack of cereals will help someone.
Let me know if you want more information.