There For Each Other: How food plays a huge part in our lives at Christmas and how to handle it

Food is a massive part of Christmas for all of us.

Thursday, 10th December 2020, 12:30 pm

The traditions about what we eat and the routines about who does what are all important anchors for how we live our lives.

But food can also cause a problem for many who may be struggling with finances or guilt about over-indulgence.

“It’s important to have some Christmas indulgence”, said Lee Chambers, a Preston-based environmental psychologist. “It’s one of our social anchors.

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He said: “It’s cold, it’s dark and having a little bit of a feast is letting go of boundaries and part of the disconnecting process at Christmas.

“We’re bombarded with diet messages throughout the year, but it’s important to be kind to yourself and enjoy a Christmas break.”

He added: “Mental and physical wellbeing is a 365-day persuit . At Christmas it’s a good time to take an 80/20 perspective. Try to keep to your routine of exercise and sleep, but it’s okay to give 20 or 25 per cent to eating what you want and maybe staying up that bit later. Be human! We spend so much of our time trying to be perfect.

“Then don’t jump straight back onto the scales, give it a week. Reset again, get back into your routines and rhythms.

Preston-based environmental psychologist Lee Chambers

“And don’t be pulled into the big New Year’s resolution thing. If you’re going to make one, pick something small so that it’s achievable, and when you’ve done it, you can pick another.”

Lee (inset) says part of being kind to yourself is recognising the financial pressures of buying food, and having an open an honest conversation about who is providing what and how much you can pay for.

Lee’s tips this Christmas:

- If someone is suddenly not interested in food, it can be a sign that they are struggling with some aspect of their health

Booths supermarket has launched a Buy One Give One scheme

- Eating disorders can be challenging at this time of year when so much is focused around food. Try some activities that do not involve food.

- Have an open conversation about who is contributing what. Often responsibility can fall onto those who don’t speak up.

What's going on locally?

In order to make Christmas food concerns easier, Lancashire-based supermarket Booths has launched a Buy One Give One Free initiative. The scheme means for every qualifying item purchased, customers will receive another one free of charge, which they can then donate at the store’s food bank collection point after checkout.

Booths originally intended to introduce its Buy One Give One Free scheme in January 2021, but owing to the predicted increase in demand for food banks during the festive period, with more and more people in need of emergency support and essentials, the retailer was keen to take the necessary steps to roll out its latest initiative much earlier than planned.

John Gill, head of marketing and trading said: “As a family owned and operated retailer, we have a responsibility to support our local communities, particularly during these unprecedented times. We hope that the introduction of our Buy One Give One Free initiative will increase the volumes of products that we can donate to our local food bank partners, meaning vital food and hygiene essentials can reach more people in need.”

One of the food banks being supported by Booths is Penwortham Food bank, which operates out of Penwortham Community Centre in Kingsfold Drive.

Volunteers say the local community has stepped up its efforts to help out those less fortunate this year, with donations of food and cash.

“People are being very generous at the moment”, said volunteer John Atkins.

“We’ve had messages from people throughout the town asking when and where they can donate, and quite a few firms and offices doing collections.

“Booths and other supermarkets have also got boxes for people to drop stuff into and we’ve also been given quite a lot of money as donations, so we’re doing well, but we’re bothered in case demand suddenly shoots up.”

Mr Atkins added: “We’re getting steady numbers - 30 to 40 a week - which is comparable to the same time as last year, but we’re seeing a slightly different clientele now. We’re getting more people who are coming because of problems with their jobs, and more people are coming weekly rather than fortnightly.”

Since March, the way the food bank operates has had to change, but organisers are keen that people still know it’s operating, referrals are not needed, and people are never turned away.

Whereas people used to drop in and have a chat, now they have to queue at a distance and it’s straight in and out.

The bags are pre-packed for visitors, but can be altered depending on whether a person has particular dietary needs, such as being a vegetarian, or has allergies.

The foodbank is run by Churches Together in Penwortham with most of the volunteers belonging to a local church. It usually opens runs from 9.30am to 12.30pm every Friday. It will not be open on Christmas Day - which this year falls on a Friday - but will be open on Friday, December 18 and an additional session will run on the morning of Tuesday, December 22.

Mr Atkins added: “For the Tuesday we’re hoping that people will donate some more special items such as little Christmas treats, cakes and puddings, just to make things a bit nicer for people.”

Anyone wishing to donate food is asked to drop it off between 4-5pm on a Thursday or during the opening of a food bank session. Alternatively, contact volunteers on the Penwortham Foodbank Facebook page, or call Penwortham Town Council on 01772 750533 to check their availability to take donations.