Join the #FoodbankAdvent campaign

Donate to your local food bank this Christmas. Picture: Getty Images/istockphoto

Donate to your local food bank this Christmas. Picture: Getty Images/istockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Instead of eating chocolate this advent why not help your local food bank?

Last Christmas, following a heartfelt appeal from a local food bank which was in dire straits, facing possible closure due to underfunding, I organised a food drive at work and with close friends and family.

The response was astonishing, and more than generous. Within a week the peripheries of my desk space were covered with tins of biscuits, boxes of chocolates, Christmas crackers – I'm sure I probably broke some kind of health and safety rules.

It was a hell of a task getting it to the car and shifting it into the food bank, but seeing the joy on volunteers' faces as we turned up with our haul, and thinking of the families we could make a difference to over the Christmas period made it so worth it. Because this is what it's all about isn't it? Whatever your age, religion, thoughts or beliefs, this time of year should be about giving.

Living in an age where gifts and decorations are strewn across the shops before the schools have even opened their doors at the end of the holidays, it's refreshing to be brought back down to earth. That's why, instead of chomping down on cheap advent calendar chocolate this year, I'll be taking part in the #FoodbankAdvent campaign thought up by UK Money Bloggers, and already backed by many individuals and organisations, including Nigella Lawson.

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Blogger Faith Archer, from Hadleigh in Suffolk, a writer for UK Money Bloggers, introduced me to the idea. 'FoodbankAdvent is a reverse advent calendar. I'll be setting aside one item each day for 25 days so I can deliver it to FIND [a local food bank] in December, ready for distribution before Christmas.

'I'll add food with a long shelf life like rice, pasta sauces, teabags and tins to my #FoodbankAdvent box, plus a couple of treats for Christmas like biscuits and chocolate. Not everyone has access to a kitchen or cooking equipment, so I'm including food like cereal, tinned fruit and cup soups that don't need cooking. Food banks also need items like essential toiletries, laundry products, nappies and baby wipes.

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'I think it's shocking that there's such a great need for food banks when we live in one of the richest countries in the world. Christmas can be a difficult time. Free school meals stop during the holidays and heating costs go up. If you're on a low income you can be forced to choose between heating and eating.

'As a frugal blogger I wanted to support my local food bank by taking part. Hopefully it will inspire lots more people to join in, and donate.'

So it's time to dig deep folks. I, for one, will be putting a few extra bits and pieces in my shopping trolley for my #FoodbankAdvent this year, including all the delicious things my family are lucky enjoy to enjoy and appreciate, such as Christmas cake, mince pies and a yule log.

If you're similarly inspired, rally round and get other people involved. It's worth calling your local food bank to see when their latest date for donations is. They will probably be looking for volunteers to sort and deliver food parcels too.

Food banks in the east include: The Waveney Food Bank (Eye), The Trussell Trust Food Bank (Haverhill, Colchester, Cromer, Dereham, Norwich Thetford and Lowestoft) Storehouse (Sudbury), Open Door (Newmarket), FIND (Ipswich).

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