Sometimes a simple idea can have an enormous effect. A suggestion from a group of British teenagers could brighten Christmas for hundreds of thousands of families living on the breadline.
The group of 13 teenagers from Exeter in southwest England participated in a National Citizen Service programme last summer. One of the steps was to do something to help their community. The teens observed that the local supermarket had collection boxes for the local food bank. But since they were placed after the tills, customers often didn’t notice them until it was too late to buy products to donate. So they donated nothing or something out of their shopping that wasn’t necessarily something the food bank needed.
The teens pitched their idea to the supermarket manager: by not put signs on the shelves in the shop indicating priority items for the food bank? Customers could then easily grab an extra packet of cereal or tin of vegetables to donate.
The hunch worked: donations to the food bank tripled!
The supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s, was so impressed it decided to roll out the scheme nationwide. And to use it as the basis of its Christmas campaign to encourage customers to donate a million toys and food items to contribute to low income families.
Team member Jodie said she loved, “Seeing how much of a difference we all made with only such a small thing. And also having fun whilst doing it!”
The National Citizen Service programme was launched in 2011 and has proved a great success. Almost half a million young people have taken part, donating12 million hours of social action. It takes place over a month in the summer and is open to 16- and 17-year-olds for the modest contribution of £50. They spend the first fortnight away from home, first doing an outward-bounds type adventure course, then learning to live independently, to manage a budget and household tasks. They also get a taste of the world of work.
Then the groups return to home to do voluntary work in their own community before getting together to take stock of what they’ve learned.
In Need of Food
United Nations statistics estimate that 8 million people in the UK, more than 10% of the population, live in households where it is a struggle to have sufficient food. The number of people turning to charity food banks for help is increasing year on year. The Trussell Trust, Britain’s biggest food-bank organisation, is now distributing 1.3 million 3-day emergency food packages a year to individuals and family groups.