Hundreds of families and individuals who are going to the Canterbury Food Bank will now have the option of an extra Christmas treat.
Mince pies, Christmas puddings, biscuits and chocolates are available on the “bonus table” which is set up in the churches and other places where food parcels are collected.
Advent Calendars have been available over the last ten days or so. The first donations of mince pies started to arrive in the Food Bank warehouses in mid November.
Adults collecting a food parcel will receive provisions valued at about £29 and aimed at lasting three days. Parcels are tailor-made to the size of the family involved. The bonus table contains extra items such as toiletries, pet food and washing powder.
Also on the bonus table are bags of sugar. These used to be included in food parcels but the managers of the Food Bank stopped making them standard issue in July.
The Canterbury Food Bank is careful to offer a packet of items which are as healthy as possible.
In April the Trussell Trust issued a report on the nutritional value of food parcels, having examined their contents in five London locations. Canterbury acted on a recommendation which said: “The sugar content of the parcels was particularly high, relative to UK Government recommendations, partly due to their large size.
“It is recommended that efforts are made to reduce the parcels’ sugar content by simply not providing raw sugar…”
Food parcels are generally seen as being effective in offering a well-balanced diet, although most food banks – including the Canterbury one – do not have the storage facilities to offer fresh food.
The Trussell report added: “Indeed, given the generosity of public donations and food bank volunteers, these food parcels often exceeded the nutrient requirements for calories, protein, minerals, trace elements and vitamins (with the exception of Vitamins D and E), allowing them to last beyond 3 days.”
But, regarding biscuits and treats, the Trussell report says: “It is not recommended that sweet biscuits and treats are removed, given that it will unacceptably reduce the calorie, calcium and Vitamin E levels of the parcels.
“These ‘comfort’ or ‘treat’ foods may also provide some short-term emotional benefits, which may be particularly advantageous to people in food crisis. The effects of eating do not just fulfil human biophysical needs, but also have an emotional and social context.”
December has traditionally been the busiest month for the Canterbury Food Bank. It gave out 436 parcels in December 2017.