Big Issue Vendor

How to spread comfort and joy with a reverse advent calendar

Here’s everything you need to know to start a new Christmas tradition and help your local food bank with a reverse advent calendar
Reverse advent calendar donations

This year, we are facing a very different Christmas. Covid might deny some of us the family feasts of years past, but it won’t stop us spreading comfort and joy in the community with a reverse advent calendar.

Covid-19 has put record numbers of families at risk of going hungry. This Christmas, food banks will need your help to offer the necessities – and some festive cheer – to those in need.

In the first six months of the Covid-19 pandemic, from April 1 to September 30, the Trussell Trust and its food banks gave out 1.2 million emergency food parcels across the UK. On average, 2,600 were distributed every day to children around the country.

Support The Big Issue and our vendors by signing up for a subscription

They are anticipating an incredibly busy Christmas, as official figures from the Office of National Statistics show a record number of redundancies in the UK in the three months to September.

If you are able to spare a little each day, a reverse advent calendar is an easy way to offer some help, and fill yourself with Christmas spirit.

“Reverse advent calendars are a lovely way to support people who are struggling to afford the basics at Christmas time,” said Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust

“We would encourage people to check which items are needed most with their local food bank, and make sure donations are dropped off as soon as possible to give volunteers time to get them back out to people.”

What is the reverse advent calendar?

A reverse advent calendar turns the usual advent calendar on its head. Instead of opening the windows and taking out treats, you add one thing each day.

Starting on December 1, just like a regular advent calendar, each day you should add one item to your Christmas hamper (a plastic bag or cardboard box will do). At the end, take the supplies to your local food bank and feel the glow of knowing you’ve spread some comfort and joy.

Where can I donate my reverse advent calendar?

Any food bank will be happy to accept your donations, as usual. Many supermarkets also have drop off points. Remember to check when your local food bank closes for Christmas, and get your donations to them in good time. For more information, see our full guide to how to donate to a food bank.

In the south of England, the Co-op is running its own reverse advent calendar, with suggestions every day. So if you live in that area, there are drop off points at 78 Co-operative Food stores.

Holly Bramble, Community and Campaign Co-ordinator at Southern Co-op, said: “We want to help as many families as possible so have launched this fun and affordable way for customers, colleagues and members to get involved.

“We know not everyone can afford to donate money so this is another way people can help local families and individuals who have fallen on hard times.”

What do you put in a reverse advent calendar?

Here is our suggested list, following advice from the Trussell Trust. 

Dec 1: Variety tins/boxes
Dec 2: UHT long-life milk
Dec 3: Tinned tomatoes
Dec 4: Rice
Dec 5: Tinned potatoes
Dec 6: Box of biscuits
Dec 7: Bag / box of nuts
Dec 8: Tinned fish
Dec 9: Coffee
Dec 10: Jam
Dec 11: Breakfast cereal
Dec 12: Tea bags
Dec 13: Selection box
Dec 14: Long-life fruit juice
Dec 15: Mince pies
Dec 16: Instant mashed potatoes
Dec 17: Tinned vegetables
Dec 18: Cooking sauce
Dec 19: Tinned meat
Dec 20: Christmas pudding (non-alcoholic)
Dec 21: Rice pudding
Dec 22: Ambient Christmas items, e.g. stuffing mixture
Dec 23: Tinned fruit
Dec 24: Christmas cake

How else can I help?

Share your reverse advent calendar progress with us on Facebook, Twitter, or by emailing and encourage your friends and family to get involved.