Stephen Jardine: A four-bird roast for some, a food parcel for others

Food banks are expecting their busiest ever Christmas  (Picture: Sarah Peters)
Food banks are expecting their busiest ever Christmas (Picture: Sarah Peters)
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Just 48 hours to the biggest day of the year. Across the country last-minute presents are being bought and churches are preparing for late-night carol services. This weekend will also see packed shops and supermarkets as consumers switch their attention from gifts to Christmas food and drink.

According to a new survey, the average British household now spends £228 on festive food. The cost may be rising but some things never change. For 364 days of the year we eat an incredibly diverse diet in this country but for one day only tradition rules. Over the next few days, we will consume more than 390 million Brussels sprouts along with 325 million mince pies and 260 million pigs in blankets.

At the centre of the feast is the traditional turkey. Introduced to Britain about 500 years ago, they quickly became the aspirational choice. While the masses ate goose, turkey was seen as something different and exotic. On Monday, nearly 90 per cent of us will sit down to a turkey meal then Christmas pudding.

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Christmas is traditionally a time when people are prepared to stretch the budget and the major retailers are happy to help them do that. This year Waitrose have their showstopper Persian Spiced Christmas Pudding while Marks and Spencer hope to turn heads with their four-bird roast featuring turkey, duck, chicken and pheasant. It is a time of excess, our last bacchanalian feast where conspicuous consumption is actively encouraged. So spare a thought for those who struggle to put food on the table. Last year, foodbank charity the Trussell Trust saw a 47 per cent increase in December in three-day emergency food parcels being handed out. A 13 per cent rise in foodbank use already this year suggests this Christmas will be a record breaker for all the wrong reasons.

“For many, this Christmas will not be a time for celebration ... foodbanks are expecting their busiest Christmas ever,” said the Trussell Trust’s Mark Ward. For families struggling to buy a gift for a child or to keep the house warm, food shopping is a cost that can and will get squeezed. Food banks help bridge the gap and make Christmas less stressful and more manageable. Last Christmas alone, 146,798 families had good things to eat on Christmas Day thanks to the generosity of others. In that statistic lies the true spirit of Christmas.

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This year supermarket giant Aldi has offered to donate all it’s unsold fresh food to charities when stores close tomorrow afternoon. Organisations including food banks have been encouraged to get in touch and arrange collections to help the less fortunate and cut down on food waste. It’s hoped other major stores will follow their example.

Some of the produce may well end up on the tables at charities like Crisis which will be feeding and caring for the homeless over the next few days, all supported by kind-hearted volunteers who will give up their Christmas for others. Having good things to eat with the people we love over the next few days should be a reminder of how lucky we are and how tough life can be for those less fortunate. To them and to you, have a very Happy Christmas.