It's Christmas Eve, and this morning I delivered the last two of three hundred Christmas hampers. I don't work for Harrods, or M&S, or anyone else who might spring to mind when you think about hamper deliveries; I work for Salisbury Foodbank. And each one of these three hundred hampers will go to families and individuals who are struggling to put food on the table this Christmas.
There's something especially stark about giving out emergency food, with some festive additions, with only hours to go before Christmas Day. It makes you stop and think. What does it feel like to see all those Christmas ads full of food, when you know that you're going to eat the last two tins in the cupboard for Christmas lunch - the two tins that you've saved to make sure that you don't have to go hungry. Or worse still, know that you're not going to eat anything at all so that you can give your children spaghetti hoops on toast with your last pennies.
I've been involved in organising Salisbury Foodbank's Christmas hamper delivery now for three years. Every year, Salisbury foodbank takes referrals from local agencies like Children's Centres and CAB who tell us of people they know who will struggle with financial pressures at Christmas. During winter and school holidays people's budgets are often stretched to the limits, forced to choose between eating and heating. People often find themselves in these difficult situations through no fault of their own - either they have had to give up work through ill health or to care for a relative, or are working but not earning enough to make ends meet. People like the working Dad who we delivered a fresh turkey with all the trimmings to this morning. He's on a very low income and the hamper will mean he and his young daughters will get to have a proper Christmas lunch tomorrow.
This year Salisbury foodbank delivered over 300 hampers to those in the local area - an area usually seen as prosperous. It really hit home for me personally when I found that one of the hampers was going to a family on the same street that I will be celebrating Christmas on. I don't know the details of this family's situation, but they will certainly be on my mind whilst I will be enjoying the excellent and unworried hospitality of my mother-in-law's home.
The heartening thing is that every Christmas hamper, and every item of food, has been generously donated by local people and then delivered by 'World of Furniture' staff and vans who gave up a day's trading to help us out.
Like all the staff and volunteers at foodbanks across the UK, we are immensely grateful - so if you're one of the many who has donated to a foodbank this Christmas: thank you! You may not get to see the faces of the children who excitedly look through their family's hamper, and scream with delight when they find a selection box, and you don't get to see the tears of relief of mums who can now give their children a Christmas, but know that your kindness will have a real impact on the lives of people struggling the most in our communities. So thank you, and happy Christmas!
Alex Howell, Salisbury Foodbank