LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21:  A volunteer collects food from shelves to fill a client's voucher request at the Trussell Trust Food Bank on December 21, 2015 in Liverpool, England. The Trussell Trust has seen a rise in foodbank use in the period April to September 2015 with problems with the social security safety net being the biggest reason people are referred for emergency food.  The Big Lottery Fund has contributed £748,423 to the Trust as it prepares for what is likely to be record levels of demand this Christmas.  (Photo by Richard Stonehouse/Getty Images)
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Money bloggers are encouraging families, schools and workplaces to give as well as receive this festive season by starting a “reverse advent calendar”, putting aside one item each day to donate to their local food bank before Christmas.

The Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest provider of food banks, said the rollout of universal credit had led to a sharp increase in demand for its services this year, predicting this December “could be our busiest yet.”

An estimated 216,000 food items were donated in December last year due to the #FoodBankAdvent campaign, organised by the UK’s online community of personal finance bloggers, who hope even more people will join in this year.

“Food poverty is a very real issue in the UK so a reverse advent calendar is a fun way to get friends, family and colleagues to do something about it,” said Andy Webb, author of “Be Clever with your Cash” and founder of UK Money Bloggers.

Faith Archer, author of the “Much More with Less” money blog, said that before starting a reverse advent calendar, donors should contact their local food bank to check which items were particularly needed. Every food bank will vary, she said, but most will have a glut of some products — typically baked beans and tea bags — but a shortage of others, such as pasta sauce and instant coffee. Donations of products containing alcohol or foods with short use-by dates will not be accepted.

The Trussell Trust, which operates 428 food banks across the UK, emphasised the value of beginning calendars now and dropping parcels off by early December. This reduces the pressure on volunteers, giving them time to process and distribute emergency supplies.

Emma Revie, chief executive of The Trussell Trust, said: “Christmas can be such a challenging time when you’re facing hunger and poverty, so we’re really grateful for all the extra donations that are made thanks to reverse advent calendars.”

“Reverse advent calendars are wonderful,” said Jackie Humphries, centre manager of the trust’s Bromley Borough Foodbank. “On our website we list the products where our stocks are low and local households and schools have lots of fun getting involved and putting something aside every day.”

Higher energy bills combined with the increased cost of extra meals while children are at home during the Christmas break means that many families in the UK increasingly rely on food banks.

Between April and September this year, The Trussell Trust provided 13 per cent more emergency supplies to families, compared with the same period in 2017.

“It’s not right that people are being forced to use food banks after weeks of waiting for universal credit payments,” Ms Revie said. “The changes announced in last week’s Budget are a good start — but they won’t solve all of the problems food banks see, and they won’t help people making new claims this winter. We’re seeing soaring levels of need at food banks.”

UK Money Bloggers are encouraging people to share their reverse advent calendar progress on social media using the hashtag #FoodBankAdvent to raise awareness and encourage their friends and family to take part.

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