10 ways to give back at Christmas

2020 has been a tough year for everyone. It’s created new challenges for charities, community projects and small businesses, and accelerated social inequalities, with poverty and food insecurity on the rise.

Looking to give back at Christmas? These inspiring initiatives are using food as a catalyst for change – find out how you can help them make a difference this Christmas and beyond on issues from hunger and homelessness to supporting British farming and cocoa producers’ livelihoods.

10 ways to give back at Christmas

1. Eat local and buy your food direct

Disrupted supply chains, closed restaurants, cancelled food markets… this year has been difficult for farmers and small producers. Support them by buying your Christmas dinner (and more) direct from them.

  • Farms to Feed Us lists 400 suppliers to browse, including some offering national delivery.
  • Produce and Provide has an interactive map for discovering producers near you selling direct.

2. Help make hunger history

Food banks have experienced record demand in 2020 as many more families were pushed into poverty. The Trussell Trust works with more than 1,200 centres in the UK and friends of the charity have pledged to double all donations until Christmas, up to the value of £500,000, making this a powerful time to give money or fundraise – see their Christmas party fundraising pack.

Want to donate goods? Individual food banks have recommended shopping lists and deadlines for December deliveries – find your local one here. Sign up to hear more about new campaign Hunger Free Future, too.

3. Bite into a brownie that makes a difference

Social Bite runs five cafés in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, where one in three employees have struggled to find employment due to homelessness or other barriers – and it’s just launched UK-wide deliveries of four brownies in a variety of flavours.

Money raised will sustain employment programmes and housing projects that help break the cycle of homelessness in Scotland. There’s also the option to gift a brownie and hot drink to a homeless person (£3) or donate to Social Bite’s Christmas appeal. Brownies available from Social Bite (from £12).

4. Buy a big-hearted cookbook

  • From Beder’s Kitchen 
    Mental health awareness and suicide prevention charity Beder was set up to break the stigma around these issues. Cookbook From Beder’s Kitchen brings together recipes from 90 contributors, including Judy Joo, Gordon Ramsay and Yotam Ottolenghi, along with their personal reflections on mental health. Available from Beder (£22).
  • Community Comfort
    Writer and photographer Riaz Phillips compiled this digital cookbook to raise money for the Majonzi Fund, supporting people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds who have lost loved ones to Covid-19. The book brings together over 100 global recipes and includes contributions from Bake Off favourites Benjamina Ebuehi and Ruby Tandoh, household names Romy Gill and Vivek Singh, and many other talented cooks and chefs from migrant backgrounds. Available from Tezeta Press (£10).
  • Your Flavourful Food StoriesLove rice? Tilda has put together a collection of rice-based recipes from chefs, Tilda staff and the public to mark its 50th anniversary and raise funds for The Felix Project, which redistributes surplus food to more than 600 schools and community organisations in London. It’s estimated that each book bought will help provide nearly 50 meals. Available from Tilda (£7.99).

5. Use loaves to change lives

Innovative charity Breadwinners supports refugees into their first job in the UK, as managers of bread stalls at London farmers’ markets. Breadwinners participants receive a living wage and gain useful business experience as well as a Level 2 Food Hygiene Certificate. Young people aged 16-24 awaiting refugee status can undertake work experience and get involved in social activities, too.

Help the charity grow in 2021 by donating or buying bread at one of their London markets, or ordering bread, brownies, cinnamon buns and coffee online if you live in London Zones 1-4. The charity also needs volunteer mentors to support its young people on their journey into employment – find out more here.

Charity boss Martin Cosarinsky Campos with Breadwinner Khaled, who now works in events.

6. Share a meal with a neighbour

If, like us, you’re planning to cook something delicious. this December, could you give away an extra portion or two? Sharing project Free My Meal operates via local private Facebook groups, where people can offer free cooked meals to be requested by locals via private messaging. There are currently over 50 active groups in the UK.

7. Buy a beautiful gift that empowers others

Charity Arthouse Unlimited runs creative workshops for adults with epilepsy and learning and physical difficulties to help improve their self-esteem and sense of purpose. The artists’ designs are transformed into prints, textiles and packaging for ethically produced products (including covetable tea and biscuit gift sets and chocolate bars) and profits are reinvested into the enterprise. Available online from Arthouse Unlimited or buy direct from the shop-studio in Goldalming, Surrey.

8. Give a life-changing Christmas

Just £28.22 helps charity Crisis support someone without a home this Christmas, providing companionship, essential food and festive activities; where this can’t be done in person, support will be available digitally and over the phone. Donations also fund year-round support, training and education opportunities.

You can also donate in kind by browsing individual centres’ wish lists. If you can give your time, there’s still a need for volunteers at Crisis in Coventry, and Crisis Edinburgh wants people who can entertain or lead creative workshops online.

 9. Choose better chocolate

‘Tis the season to indulge… and if you can, why not buy from a brand with better credentials? We rate Tony’s Chocolonely, which pays a higher price to cocoa farmers and aims to end slavery in the cocoa trade altogether – its Willy Wonka-esque chunky bars still have all the creamy heft of your old-school favourites (£3.98 for 180g). Sign their anti-modern slavery petition here.

Need a box of chocs with the wow factor? Cambridge-based Harry Specters are a family business that produce stunning handmade chocs while offering employment and training opportunities that empower young people with autism. Available from Harry Specters. 

10. Restore the joy of food for cancer patients

Do you know someone undergoing cancer treatment whose sense of taste has been impaired? Here’s a book to share with them.

Inspired by his late mother, food writer Ryan Riley began not-for-profit cookery school Life Kitchen to reignite the pleasure of eating for people whose appetite has been adversely affected by treatment. Along with Life Kitchen co-founder Kimberley Duke, he’s created cookbook A Life Kitchen Christmas to give people living with cancer the toolkit for a tasty Christmas. Produced in partnership with dip brand Moorish, there are 7,000 free copies up for grabs. Available from Life Kitchen (£2.95 P&P).

Do you have any other suggestions on ways to give back this Christmas? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below. 


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