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Guest comment: Get involved with #FoodBankAdvent to donate for Christmas

Leading money blogger Andy Webb has written a guest blog to tell you about #FoodBankAdvent, and how you can get involved to help those who can't afford to buy food at Christmas. Views do not necessarily reflect those of MoneySavingExpert.com.

I was really pleased that MoneySavingExpert won an award at our UK Money Bloggers event. Not just because of the great job Jordon (who was there to pick up the trophy) and the team do with the MSE blogs, but because you lot are a very generous bunch too.

Last year when MSE featured #FoodBankAdvent as a Campaign of the Week, MSE users responded in their thousands. We think at least 216,000 items were donated to food banks as a result of the campaign, and so much of that success was down to you. And we'd love you to get involved again.

What is #FoodBankAdvent?

It's a very simple idea based on the reverse Advent calendar. Rather than take something out of a box for 25 days, you put something – food, drink and toiletries – in. Once you've got a full collection, you then donate it to your local food bank, which in turn makes sure those in need have the supplies to feed themselves and their family.

The key here is to start ASAP. The earlier the food bank gets the donation, the easier it is for them to process and then distribute it. So as lovely as it might seem to hand over a bunch of goodies on Christmas Eve, it's not at all practical. You might even want to start off your Advent collection with five or six items to give yourself a bit of a head start.

If you'd like to start a bit later – that's cool too. But then it's better to donate in the New Year – people who need to use food banks don't suddenly stop needing them on 25 December.

What to include in your #FoodBankAdvent

A few Christmassy treats are very welcome, but keep it to a handful. The bulk of your donation should follow these guidelines:

  • Go for long life food and drink with best before dates well into 2019.

  • Think about things that are easy and cheap to prepare. For example, it only takes a kettle of boiling water to cook a Pot Noodle.

  • If someone can't afford milk, they also won't be able to afford toothpaste, deodorant or shower gel, so include some toiletries in your box.

  • Ask your local food bank what they need. They could have a surplus of pasta, but be short on UHT milk.

How to donate your #FoodBankAdvent

Your best bet is to locate your local food bank. These are often run by community groups, churches and charities. The largest network in the UK is run by the Trussell Trust, and you can search by postcode on its website.

Once you've picked a food bank, you'll need to check how you can drop the food and toiletries off. Some will take packages directly, others collect from supermarkets such as Tesco and Waitrose.

If you want to find out more, and get inspiration from what some of the bloggers in our community are doing, follow the #FoodBankAdvent hashtag on Twitter or read more on the UK Money Bloggers website.

And please do share your progress on social media with @ukmoneybloggers and @moneysavingexp. It's not only great to see what you're up to, but it can get even more people to take part!

Andy runs the UK Money Bloggers community and his blog Be Clever With Your Cash.