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How to bring a little joy to others this Christmas

by Ria Carrogan @riacarrogan

As Christmas edges closer, many of us will be finalising our supermarket orders, picking up the turkey from the local butchers and debating with vigor which Celebration chocolate is the best. For me, Christmas has always been about food. Even when I haven’t had much of anything else.

But for others, the festive period means making difficult decisions between eating, heating their home, providing presents for their children and families or paying the bills as scary letters pile up. And there is more pressure to seem like everyone else, to feel festive… to not miss out.

More people rely on food banks than ever before: families, older people, single parents, asylum seekers…and so many other people who seem like they wouldn’t need to rely on support. There are over 2,000 food banks in the UK.

When I was in my mid to late teens I lived in a four bedroom house, I dressed well and no one knew that my mum was making a difficult decision between heating the house, paying the bills, or feeding herself or me. She always chose food for me, often not eating herself, claiming she wasn’t hungry.

I will never forget the run up to one Christmas where we sat in coats, under blankets with the heating off so that for Christmas we could have the best food we could afford (Iceland supermarket frozen platters will forever have a special place in my heart) because she wanted to make sure one aspect of Christmas, the food, was special. Is it any wonder I equate food with love?

We didn’t have food banks back then - they have only existed for 20 years - and I loathe to say that those that need them now are lucky. There is nothing ‘lucky’ about having to use a food bank. It is a complete failure of our society that people cannot afford to eat. No one should ever go hungry.

Food banks provide an essential service all year long, but even more so over the festive period where many people feel left out of the festivities and the hardships they face hit harder. It can be incredibly isolating, alongside the constant anxiety of wondering what difficult decision you have to make next.

Imagine going to your local food bank, just hoping for some tins of food and dried pasta to get you through the week. Then imagine the joy of finding a bonus Terry’s Chocolate Orange, a tub of Twiglets or a box of mince pies amongst the usual tins of fruit and long life milk. It may seem small to you, but it can make all the difference in someone’s life.

Now, onto how you can help. The Trussell Trust takes monetary donations and provides a list of food banks, so you can find one local to you. Many supermarkets will have a food donation box. Add something extra to your trolley and drop it in the donation box if you shop in person.

Make sure you check what your local food bank needs. They are often inundated with the same essentials, which is fantastic, but many need specific products, such as sanitary products, microwavable food pouches (many people don’t have the time, money or gas/electricity to use a cooker or refrigerator) something you would never even think about. You can also support Fareshare.

You can also donate to Beauty Banks who are trying to end hygiene poverty in the UK – you can donate and buy a ‘Make - A - Wish’ gift for Christmas. Please also consider Bloody Good Period’s Festive Period gift.

Whatever you choose to do, know that you’ll be bringing a little bit of joy into the lives of those who need it this Christmas.

Find Ria on Instagram and Twitter @riacarrogan and check out her podcast Femme on Film which is part of the Comics in Motion podcast - available everywhere you get podcasts!

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