Portsmouth rallies around those in need with city-wide 'Reverse Advent Calendar' forecasting its biggest ever year

A ‘REVERSE advent calendar’ food parcel project returns this year, with organisers predicting the biggest outpouring of generosity so far – as food banks report a large increase in demand.

By Richard Lemmer
Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 4:53 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th November 2021, 9:13 am

The Reverse Advent Calendar brings together organisations across the city to make it easier for people to give back to those in need for the festive season.

The project is encouraging participants to donate a different item every day throughout December, with a real need for toiletries and sweet treats like chocolate biscuits to make someone’s Christmas.

Donations can be handed in to the University of Portsmouth, Santander in Commercial Road, or The Akash in Albert Road, with food parcels being put together for Pompey in the Community and The Trussell Trust Food Bank in the King’s Church, in Somers Road.

Pictured: Akash marketing manager Miles Hanmore, Owner Faz Ahmed, Lady Mayoress Mrs Joy Maddox, Lord Mayor Frank Jonas and Reverse Calender organiser, Hayley Wheeler outside the Akash restaurant with some of the donations. Picture: Habibur Rahman

And organisations across the city are already answering the call with special festive treats, including a return family ticket to the Isle of Wight from Hovertravel and hair salons donating vouchers.

Cash donations include £800 raised on the grounds of Fratton Park on Saturday, while The Akash plans to donate 30 per cent of its takings on Tuesday, November 30.

The fundraising comes as food banks face a large increase in demand, with changes to the furlough scheme, Universal Credit, and rising bills hitting families hard, according to the donation-drive’s founder, Hayley Wheeler.

The University of Portsmouth staff member said: ‘It has gone up a lot in the last few months. When I volunteered at the food back last week, people came in for their food parcels and there was a note on one parcel that said, ‘no cooking facilities’.

Pictured: Pictured: Akash owner Faz Ahmed, Reverse Calender organiser, Hayley Wheeler, Lady Mayoress Mrs Joy Maddox and Lord Mayor Frank Jonas at the Akash restaurant. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘And I was looking to take out cans and tins of food that you can eat warmed up, and another person said, ‘no, put those back in because the family will eat them cold’.

‘And that just hit me – that a family will be eating cold meatballs for their dinner.’

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Now the donation drive is expecting its ‘biggest year yet’ as the city rallies around those in need.

Pictured: Reverse Calender organiser, Hayley Wheeler outside the Akash restaurant Picture: Habibur Rahman

Hayley said: ‘(At the King’s Church), more than 20,000 food parcels have been given out since the pandemic began.

‘I started the idea five years ago at the university with a small box for donations and it’s just grown and grown.

At The Akash – which gave out free curries to Queen Alexandra Hospital staff at the start of the pandemic – owner Faz Ahmed hopes that other businesses will join the cause by giving away part of their takings on Tuesday.

He said: ‘Last year we were almost at capacity – there were 100 people here.

‘We made way more than we would usually on a Tuesday night. So businesses shouldn’t see it as giving away their business.

‘Pompey people are so generous, you won’t lose any money. Everybody wins.’

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