#FoodbankAdvent with the UK Money Bloggers
So last year, I took part in an event to bring awareness to foodbanks and encourage people to donate to them.
If you don’t have the time to read the post, here are the cliff notes!
1. The reverse advent calendar is something you can do instead of a traditional advent calendar where you’re taking something away every day. In a reverse advent calendar you’re actually adding something everyday for 25 days!
2. The campaign is to put something in a box for everyday of “advent” that a foodbank needs in your local area.
3. The campaign was started in November by the UK Money Bloggers, so that the collections would be ready in time for rolling out in December before Christmas to provide the most benefit to those in need.
4. The Trussell Trust was the featured foodbank network in the UK Money Bloggers post, but if, like me, there isn’t one of these near you (see the map here) then a simple google search will provide the answer for where you can donate near you.
The same event is happening again for 2018, so I hope you’ll join me! Read on for more information about my local foodbank – there will be one just like this near you that you can support!
The Food bank
I chose The Food Bank in Milton Keynes, as this was the closest one to me and would likely be serving a lot of people I see as patients in the local area, so it felt right to do this. They have been running since 2004.
I met with one of the centre managers, Caitlin Hands when I gave in the food parcel. She was kind enough to show me around the warehouse and told me about the food bank and how it runs. Her energy and enthusiasm was infectious! She works alongside fellow manager John Marshall, and ex-army/abseiling legend Eric – a 74 year old retired volunteer who takes care of the warehouse organisation.
Needless to say, I was impressed! This organisation is extremely important, given that the centre hands out on average 1,000 food packages EVERY MONTH! Each package supplies roughly 3 days worth of food.
The food bank has 70-80 volunteers to help run the various locations throughout Milton Keynes. The use of the food bank continues to increase, and with more people needing the services, the pressure is on to keep it open and running. As Caitlin says, “until we’re not needed anymore, we’ll always be here”.
Checking out the food bank was an eye-opening experience, and I am extremely grateful to Caitlin for welcoming me in. If you would like to donate money to the food bank so they can continue to run and do the amazing work that they do, go to their website here and send them some cash!
Even if you do this in December, the food can be used in January (you just might want to leave out Christmas specific items). The idea though would be to get things collected in November in order to have it ready for Christmas.
If you want some inspiration, here is how my collection last year went:
I started my collection on 1st November so that I would be able to send the items to the food bank before Christmas- this gives the volunteers time to process and pack the food, plus It means I’m not trying to deliver my parcel of food on Christmas Day!
Each week of the campaign, I chose a different theme. I didn’t think it was practical to go shopping every day for one item, so I did it in weekly batches.
The themes I covered were:
Basics – instant mash potato, tinned veg, tinned fruit, pasta bake sauce, tea bags, tinned custard, porridge, multipack soup
Toiletries – shaving foam, razors, deodorant, shower gels, toothbrush and toothpaste
Babies – Fruit pots and pouches, savory pouches, massive pack of wipes, shampoo
Christmas Treats – Savory biscuits, chocolate, cake, nuts, Christmas pudding and nutella
I had looked up the foodbank’s website prior to going shopping, and saw what they needed for the season. I also joined their Facebook group and followed them on Twitter to look out for any other bits they needed.
It was great fun putting it together, but felt even more amazing when I handed over the food. I know that I’ve done my bit to help someone out before Christmas.
How much did I spend? £5+£10+£8+£14 = £37 (a lot less than my 5-10% gifting budget! – see my post on this here)
Tips for making it go further – I bought buy one get one free deals, and anything that came in bulk packs like baby wipes, soup and razors. The food bank breaks up sugar into small bundles – so if you donate something like this, it can be given out to more people!
Who did I buy for? – Single parent families are common users of foodbanks, so I had them in mind when I shopped. Single homeless men also often use foodbanks, so I tried to think about this when I selected items to cover a broad spectrum of people. Caitlin tells me that many different people use the foodbank, including those with so-called “good jobs” (which I have to say shocked and saddened me greatly).
Did I buy anything a bit unique? – In all honesty, I wasn’t trying to be different, but I discovered as I was packing my box- the “toothpaste” I purchased during toiletry week actually turned out to be denture cream. I have been assured that someone will find this helpful, so at least it wasn’t a complete screw up! *facepalm*
I was given some lovely teddy-bears by some work colleagues for the box – they will go to a good home on Christmas day!
Any other tips? – Check the expiry date on EVERYTHING you donate. The food bank have a can kept in tribute of the year 2000 – the year when the can expired. A tad out of date now me thinks!
So what did I learn from all this?
The true meaning of Christmas
It sounds really cliched but it’s absolutely true. Christmas has become a holiday of fun indulgence through consumerism and excess, and that’s ok! We work so hard throughout the year, and just want to let our hair down during the party season. Myself included! All my weekends are now completely booked out with socialising (or working) leading up to Christmas. It’s a special time of year. I love how it brings together family and friends, no matter what your background, religion or race.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying ourselves. We only live once right?
But we have to remember that this is not the case for everyone. Some people are lonely, some people are broke, some are homeless. Emergency services still run over Christmas- on the big day, there will be thousands of emergency service workers on shift keeping us well, saving our lives, and keeping us safe- spending time away from their own families to help yours.
Christmas is a perfect time of year to remember all these people. The food bank advent campaign was my way of showing I cared enough.
So be mindful at Christmas, help others in need, and do something kind for someone.
You never know when that karma will come back to you.
Until next time,
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