How To Give Back With A Reverse Advent Calendar

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Here’s how to give back this Christmas with a reverse advent calendar. From what it is to what to donate, here’s all you need to know.

It’s that time of year again – the countdown to Christmas is now firmly on. You may well have looked out your advent calendar for this year. But if you’re in a position to do so, have you thought about doing a reverse advent calendar?

If you’re new to the idea, a reverse advent calendar is where you donate a box of essential food items, gathered over the festive period, to your local food bank.

Food banks are warning a surge in demand for help may mean that they will need to turn people away or shrink the size of their emergency rations. Donating food means food banks are able to continue carrying out their vital work.

What Is A Reverse Advent Calendar?

Box of food bank donations, with a blue text box that reads how to give back this Christmas with a reverse advent calendar.

When you open up the door of a regular advent calendar, you get a treat. A reverse advent calendar works the opposite way.

Instead of receiving a treat, every day for 24 days, you donate an item, placing it in a box or bag. At the end of the 24 days, you should then donate your collection to your local food bank.

As we’re almost in December, it may be that you want to take part in a shorter reverse advent calendar period. You could pop 2 items a day in for 12 days, for example. This would give you plenty of time to get your collection to your local food bank, for them to distribute the food in time for Christmas.

This helps people in your community who are in need this Christmas time.

What To Put In A Reverse Advent Calendar

As a rough guide, here’s what to put in a reverse advent calendar. However, it’s important to bear in mind that your local food bank may have tons of tins of baked beans, for example, but be really short on breakfast cereal or other essential items.

As such, I would always recommend contacting your local food bank before you start putting your reverse advent calendar together. Ask them which items they are short on, and ask if there are any items they don’t need. This information may also be published on their social media pages or website.

They should also be able to tell you if they are accepting any festive treats as part of the reverse advent calendar – some do and some don’t depending on what donations they have already received. They will be able to advise which festive treats would suit best.

Tinned Food

  • Tinned Pies
  • Tinned Ham
  • Corned Beef
  • Stewing Steak
  • Tinned Meatballs
  • Tinned Soup – Preferably Condensed or Chunky Soup
  • Tinned Potatoes
  • Tinned Vegetables
  • Spaghetti Hoops
  • Baked Beans
  • Baked Beans With Sausages
  • Macaroni Cheese
  • Ravioli
  • Mild Curry
  • Custard
  • Rice Pudding
  • Tinned Fruit Cocktail

Dried Items/Packets

  • Breakfast Cereal
  • Instant Noodles
  • Instant Mashed Potatoes
  • Microwave Rice Sachets
  • Meat Paste
  • Ketchup
  • Brown Sauce
  • Stock Cubes
  • Gravy Granules
  • Jam
  • Chocolate Spread
  • Golden Syrup
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Crisps


  • Cordial/squash
  • Long Life Fruit Juice
  • UHT Milk
  • Powdered Milk
  • Tea
  • Instant Coffee
  • Instant Hot Chocolate Powder
  • Powdered Milkshakes


  • Biscuits
  • Bars of Chocolate
  • Cake (Pre-packaged)


  • Deodorant
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Toilet Roll
  • Body Spray
  • Bar of Soap
  • Flannel
  • Shower Gel
  • Plasters
  • Sanitary Products
  • Nappies
  • Baby Wipes

Household Items

  • Washing Up Liquid
  • Washing Powder
  • Cleaning Spray
  • Toilet Cleaner
  • Toilet Roll

Always look for products with long expiration dates.

How Should I Package My Reverse Advent Calendar?

Any food donations are split up into individual items to be used in food parcels. Food banks do not give out whole donated ‘hampers’. This means you shouldn’t wrap or decorate your donations. Instead, place your donations inside a box or bag, so that food bank volunteers can easily distribute your items to several families in need.

What If Donating Food Is Too Tricky?

Tins of soup on a shelf

If donating food is logistically too tricky for you, your reverse advent calendar could focus on monetary donations. You could put 50p a day (or any other amount) into a tub, and then donate that to your local food bank.

Food banks really appreciate cash donations. It allows food banks to buy perishable items, such as fruit and vegetables. These types of items can’t be directly donated by members of the public, but are vital in maintaining people’s health. 

Many food banks also work with manufacturers and retailers to secure healthy food at lower prices. This means that when you donate cash, you’re able to put more meals on the tables of families than if you donated food you purchased yourself.

Food banks also use donated funds to help cover running costs, which have gone up massively this year.

If you’re a taxpayer, remember to GiftAid your reverse advent calendar donation. The food bank will get an extra 25% if you do.

How To Find Your Local Food Bank

Once you’ve collected your food or money, you might be wondering where to donate your reverse advent calendar.

There are over 2,500 food banks in the UK. Over 1,400 of these are run by Trussell Trust – a charity which supports this nationwide network of food banks. This means one of the easiest ways to find your local food bank is through the Trussell Trust website. Here you can search for food banks in your area.

Most of the others are independent – part of the Independent Food Aid Network. You can search for your local independent food bank here to donate your reverse advent calendar collection.

Many food banks also have food collection points in local communities. This might be at your local supermarket or church.

Remember, food banks are in need of donations all year. If you’re unable to hand your donation in before Christmas, then it will still be appreciated in the New Year.

For next year, it might be an idea to start your reverse advent calendar in November. Especially if you want to include festive treats, such as a box of mince pies, a bag of chocolate coins, or a Yule log. Donating early gives the food bank time to use Christmas items in their December emergency food parcels. This helps to spread a little Christmas joy at an otherwise difficult time.

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