Around this time every year, I find myself lamenting a lack of funds. I use phrases like "flat broke" to describe our financial situation. And while everything is relative, the reality is that we are not flat broke and lack of funds means we probably won't get the family iPad I was planning for Christmas.
For some families, the idea of Christmas is a terrible burden placed on top of their already dire financial situation. It is not a matter of extending their debt on the credit card in order to get their kids far more presents than they could ever need. It's the terrifying prospect of not being able to pay rent, to buy groceries, to feed their families day to day.
Money or the lack of it is never more stressful than when there are children to support. It is hard to imagine not being in a position to buy my kids a Christmas gift; not being able to feed them is wrenching. But this will be the reality facing thousands of families around Australia this year.
There is a simple way for us to help. The Wesley Mission Victoria Food for Families appeal is there to assist those families in need. By making a donation of things like pasta and canned food, we can make a difference. Last year, the Wesley Mission helped 20,000 families, distributing 45 tonnes of donated non-perishable items. It's a huge achievement.
This year, my boys' school is involved in taking up a Food for Families collection of non-perishable goods so we bought a bag of groceries including pasta sauce, pasta, soup, baked beans and long-life milk.
It's strange to be buying so much packaged food when the message is clear that we should be eating fresh produce wherever possible. Apart from the logistical challenge that trying to collect perishable goods would present, the reality is that a meal made from canned food is preferable to no meal at all (or a relatively expensive fast food meal). Despite the move away from pre-packaged foods, it is still possible to provide a nourishing family meal with them. Additionally, the Wesley Mission also accepts monetary donations which then enable families to supplement the donated non-perishables with fresh and frozen foods.
If there isn't a school or community group participating in your area, you can register here to do so yourself. You can find a list of most needed goods to help you choose what to donate. The obvious choices like rice and ready-made meals are always needed, but if you're creative in the kitchen, you could buy the individual ingredients to make a delicious meal like the breakfast below.
Why not include a recipe with your donation that can be passed on to a family to try? This makes it easier for the recipient to make use of the ingredients, to perhaps be more creative or make things stretch further.
What I love most about appeals like Food for Families is that everyone can get involved. It's easy and it doesn't have to be expensive. A jar of pasta sauce and a packet of spaghetti cost me under $5 – an amount that I won't notice missing from my bank account but that can provide dinner for a family of four. I don't know about you, but that feels like money well spent to me.
If you're not in Victoria, as mentioned you can make a monetary donation to Food for Families here. But if you'd prefer to donate food, googling 'Christmas Food Appeal' should give you lots of options for donating food somewhere closer to you.