Think inside the box at Christmas for ‘reverse advent’ food appeal

Rev Andrew Dotchin of St John’s Church in Felixstowe is running a sort of reverse advent calendar –

Rev Andrew Dotchin of St John’s Church in Felixstowe is running a sort of reverse advent calendar – instead of opening a window and taking something out, the church has boxes and people put something in to help the homeless, vulnerable and disadvantaged. Reverend Andrew Dotchin with volunteer Margaret Good. - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

A Suffolk clergyman is putting a warm-hearted spin on a festive tradition.

Reverend Andrew Dotchin, vicar at St John with St Edmund, in Felixstowe, is asking people to fill their own ‘reverse advent calendar’ with food items for the hungry and less fortunate.

Rather than removing a daily treat, Mr Dotchin and members of his parish are adding an item of non-perishable food to a box each day in the lead up to Christmas.

The boxes will then be placed around a tree inside the church, before being donated to the Basic Life charity for distribution to the homeless, vulnerable and disadvantaged.

The idea was inspired by a Canadian food writer, who filled two empty 12-bottle wines boxes with food bank donations.

Mr Dotchin said: “The lead-up to Christmas is a time of expectancy. By filling the boxes with an item a day, come Christmas time they can be donated to people who might be hungry all year round.

“It’s a marvellous thing for parents to encourage children to do – when an item goes in the box, they can have a chocolate from their own advent calendar.

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“There are parts of hidden deprivation in Felixstowe. The Basic Life charity donates food to people in need – no questions asked.

“Items don’t have to be expensive. I’ve been filling mine with things that each cost about a pound.

“It would be wonderful to see people bringing their own into the church at Christmas. The only requirement is that the items are edible and have a long shelf-life.

“You can donate food you’d use at home. If it’s good enough for you to eat, other people will be grateful.”

Mr Dotchin said that, from the reaction he has seen so far, the true spirit of Christmas alive and well in Suffolk.

“So many people, particularly younger people who may not be in church every Sunday, are keen to help and give something back at Christmas,” he added.