Turn advent on its head with a Reverse Advent Calendar for your local food bank. Download our FREE Reverse Advent Calendar Poster for your fridge door.
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The Reverse Advent Calendar idea is so simple – rather than receiving a treat each day, you gift one.
Packed to the brim with Christmas spirit, it’s an ideal tradition to start in your home and perfect for reminding little ones (and us if we’re honest!) to think of others at this busy time of year.
Learn how to create a Reverse Advent Calendar for your local food bank and make a positive impact in your community. Download our FREE Reverse Advent Calendar poster to stick on your fridge door.
What Is A Reverse Advent Calendar?
As December progresses, instead of opening advent doors to find chocolates or other treats, each day you donate essential items for those in need.
The idea is simple yet powerful.
With every passing day, your Reverse Advent Calendar fills with non-perishable food items, hygiene products, and other essential supplies.
By Christmas Day, you’ll have a collection that’s not only symbolic of the holiday season but also a tangible display of your generosity.
A relatively new tradition, it’s a fantastic way to foster a spirit of giving and empathy within the family. Even young kids can actively contribute by helping to decide what to donate and delivering the completed box. And there’s plenty of opportunity to discuss important issues surrounding food poverty and giving back too.
How Did The Reverse Advent Calendar Tradition Start?
Canadian Julie Van Rosendaal is widely credited with creating the Reverse Advent Calendar concept back in 2015.
Staring at an empty 12-bottle wine box, she thought the spaces would be perfect for collecting daily contributions to donate to her local food bank in Calgary.
The idea took off and by December 1st, people on both sides of the Atlantic were busily filling their calendar boxes.
Since then, a large number of UK Charities have initiated their own Reserve Advent Calendar campaign and the difficulty now is choosing who to support. Options range from food banks to baby banks, animal shelters to gift drives for children.
Supporting Local Food Banks & Pantries
One of the best things about the reverse calendar is that you can tailor it to suit the needs of your local community.
These organisations play a crucial role in distributing emergency food parcels to the most vulnerable during the Christmas season. And the calendar’s simple act of kindness can go a long way in helping others over the holidays and well into the next year’s winter months.
Find out which items are in high demand at your local food bank, homeless shelter, or pantry; your contributions can make a massive difference to what can be provided.
The Trussell Trust
A poignant example of the impact such initiatives can have is found in The Trussell Trust.
As overseers of a vast nationwide network of over 1,300 food bank centres across the United Kingdom, their mission to ‘Stop UK Hunger’ gained even more urgency in light of the close to 3 million emergency food parcels distributed in the 12 months leading up to March 2023.
Around 1 million of these were provided for children, and in December 2022 a food parcel was distributed every 8 seconds.
How To Make A Reverse Advent Calendar
Making your own reverse calendar is incredibly easy:
- Choose a container for your calendar. An old cardboard box will do just fine. Decorate it if you’d like and set it up in an easy-to-see location (to keep momentum going).
- Add an item each day. From canned goods and pasta to hygiene products like shower gel and feminine hygiene products. Talk with your local food bank or shelter for details of what they are most in need of right now. We’ve shared some ideas below to get you started.
- Deliver to your chosen cause. When the calendar is complete, take pleasure in delivering your boxful of essential items to your local food bank or donation point.
Spreading the Word
To make an even bigger impact, consider involving friends, family, and even your social media network.
Share your reverse advent calendar journey online, inspiring others to join in. You might be surprised by the number of people who are eager to participate in this fantastic Christmas tradition.
When To Do A Reverse Advent Calendar
Traditionally of course advent calendars start on the 1st December and this makes for a really thoughtful Christmas time project.
However, many food banks begin their festive season distributions early to ensure they’re able to reach everyone in need. So do consider running your Reverse Advent Calendar in November if you’d like to include a festive treat or two.
Regardless, a donation just before Christmas will certainly enable your local food bank to continue helping into the new year.
What To Collect In Your Reverse Advent Calendar
The best way to decide what to include is to reach out to your chosen charity or food bank and ask what they need.
Generally any contributions of brand new, sealed long life products are appreciated. So it could be a great way to clear out the kitchen cupboards ahead of the festivities (just be sure to check the expiration dates).
We’ve created a free printable poster with 24 commonly-requested items which you can print out and pop on your fridge door. However below are a few ideas to get your started.
Typical Food Parcel Items
A typical food parcel contains the following essential items:
- tinned meat, fish, vegetables & fruit
- soup and tomato sauce
- UHT milk and long-life fruit juice
- packets of pasta, rice & lentils
- cereal and biscuits
- tea, coffee and sugar
Essential Non-Food Items
In addition to food products, essential non-food items are just as important, helping people in crisis to maintain dignity and keep healthy. Examples include:
- toiletries, such as toothpaste and brushes, deodorant, shower gel and soap
- feminine products
- baby supplies, such as nappies, baby wipes and baby food
- household products, such as toilet paper, laundry powder and washing up liquid
We love the idea of adding a few extra Christmas treats into the box:
- mince pies
- Christmas pudding
- Christmas cake
However, it’s important to remember distribution lead times when doing this. So do check with the food bank when they will need any festive donations, and whether there are any specific guidelines to bear in mind.
What Not To Include
A few key rules to keep in mind when donating:
- No fresh produce (unless confirmed directly with the food bank or shelter).
- No damaged items.
- Nothing that has been opened, is unsealed or homemade.
- No out-of-date products.
- Avoid items containing alcohol as these are prohibited from distribution.
Download Your Reverse Advent Calendar Poster
To help you keep track of your daily contributions, we’ve created a free printable reverse advent calendar list for you to use.
Incorporating 24 commonly requested products, the poster is ready to download, print and pop on your fridge door or another prominent spot. Simply work your way down the list as you go through the month and fill your box with essential items to donate.
Ready to start your giving journey? Download our FREE Printable Reverse Advent Calendar Template now!
Ways To Get Children Involved In A Reverse Advent Calendar
One of the great things about reverse advent calendars is how simple they are and how easy it is to get everyone involved.
If you’re looking for some fun ways to get children and young people involved in the project, consider the following:
- Decorate the calendar box. It can be wrapped in leftover paper from a previous year or painted, coloured, or covered in stickers and stencils.
- Make a pictorial calendar of donations. Prepare a calendar guide with details of what to donate each day. Children can draw the items on the appropriate calendar square or cut out pictures from catalogues and magazines.
- Help choose the donation items. Whether helping select items from the cupboard at home and checking they are sealed and in date, or heading to the shops to spend their pocket money, everyone can assist filling the box.
- Record a social media diary. Put your children in charge of the daily update of contributions to the box to share online and encourage others to get involved.
- Make homemade Christmas cards. Include cards and messages to go alongside the donations in the box for both for visitors to the food bank or shelter, and those volunteering there.
Other Reverse Advent Calendar Ideas
If a food bank reverse advent calendar isn’t feasible for you this year, here are a few alternative options to consider:
- Daily financial donation. Instead of donating a food item each day, perhaps drop a set amount or the change in your pocket into a festive money box each day. Then donate the total to the cause of your choice come Christmas Day.
- Donate to an animal shelter. Rather than donating to a food bank, consider gathering 24 items for your local animal shelter instead. Think dog food, cat litter, treats, blankets and even a Christmas treat or toy.
- Donate to a baby bank. Clear out old baby clothes and equipment and help others starting out. Make a list of 24 baby items to sort through and tackle one a day. Find your local baby bank and drop off your donations over the Christmas break.
- Complete A Kindness Calendar. Rather than donating items or money, complete a calendar full of random acts of kindness. Perfect for sharing Christmas cheer in your local community.
- Share Your Christmas Dinner. Share your leftovers, cook a few extra portions during advent, or even provide Christmas Dinner for another local family with charity Free My Meal.
- Volunteer. There are many organisations that will appreciate extra hands to help on the run up to Christmas. Offer your time in your local area for a few hours to assist.
Looking for more advent calendar inspiration?
- Make A Living Advent Calendar In Your Neighbourhood
- Spread joy with a Kindness Advent Calendar
- FREE Printable Advent Calendar Activity Vouchers
And be sure to check out our guide to homemade advent calendars – we’ve got inspiration for all your friends and family!