‘Tis the season to be charitable

The food business has got giving locked down. So how are organisations, charities and businesses utilising the thing that many of us have, but plenty of us still desperately need?

You don’t need us to tell you that Christmas is the season of excess; a cheese board here, a hamper there. When it comes to Christmas, it’s a veritable smorgasbord of cheese and paté binges, chocolate scoffing and meat sweats.

By definition, food lends itself to handing out and sharing it around, and it couldn’t be truer than in charitable terms. Its power is two-fold: food can be donated directly to those who need it, or you can cook something up to raise money for other causes.

Though in the midst of our access to great fresh food, it’s easy to forget that thousands of others are finding their situation the polar opposite.

Food banks on the rise

In October, the Trussell Trust said it was on track to feed 200,000 people through its food bank network (totalling 270) by the end of 2012, an increase from 128,697 in 2011. Astonishingly, it says food banks are now opening at a rate of three per week. The urgency is palpable, with partnerships taking place over December, such as with Tesco and FareShare, to collect 1,000 tonnes of food from supermarket customers.

Luckily, the food industry is on hand with its bright ideas, extending its contacts and cookery in the form of money-raising schemes of food production, or indeed as a direct donation.

The Mince Pie Project

The Mince Pie Project is one such neat idea. Combining the good stuff of Christmas, mince pies, celebrity chefs and all the fun of a bidding war, the Mince Pie Project ticks all of the boxes. This 72-hour “mince pie marathon” auctioned off Christmases’ favourite baked treat, made by the fair hands of Michelin-starred and highly esteemed chefs alike.

In its launch year in 2011, the project raised £10,000. This year, it raised over £29,000 for Galvin’s Chance and Crisis. Project founder Peter Butler told us: “I think The Mince Pie Project has been so successful as it’s a real win-win for everyone involved. It’s fun and easy for the chefs, they get some good exposure, and bidders can get their hands on money-can’t-buy mince pies at the same time as donating to charity.

And for 2013, Peter promises the team has some “really exciting ideas to get more people involved next time around and hopefully raise even more money.”


If a grand for fifty pies is stretching your budget just a bit, you can alternatively capitalise on any restaurant dinners you might eat during the festivities with a trip to a joint that’s signed up to the StreetSmart initiative.

Backed by the likes of Angela Hartnett and Marcus Wareing, participating restaurants give diners the option of adding £1 to their restaurant bill, pooling donations to over 100 charities in 16 cities. And on 3rd December, the Cabinet Office said it would double all donations made this month, with Civil Society Minister Nick Hurd stating: “The Government is determined to do its bit too… this Christmas, we are pledging cash to innovative charity appeals like StreetSmart, so that we can help support the vulnerable.”

Hope for the Homeless

Larger networks like coffee chains and supermarkets also take the means at their disposal to be charitable, such as Pret A Manger’s Hope for the Homeless, which makes a 5p donation for every sandwich or baguette sold. And they’ve got you sussed if you don’t buy their food — grab a coffee and check-in to Pret on FourSquare, follow them on Twitter or Like them on Facebook, and they’ll still donate 5p.

Waitrose meanwhile has side-stepped the glitz of Christmas advertising by stripping back its 30-second TV spot to feature an empty warehouse devoid of decorations, with just a donation box, Heston and Delia at its centre. To promote its Community Matters scheme, the supermarket donated its usual advertising budget of £1m to 1,700 charities rather than blowing a budget on studio kitchens, flustered mums and weeping snowmen. Heston and Delia are reported to have donated their fee.

Honourable mentions

  • We loved this exclusively designed Christmas/recipe card by Telegramme with Gizzi Erskine, in aid of kid’s cancer charity, Trekstock
  • Jamie Oliver and street food specialists KERB have teamed up to hold a massive festive street party at Jamie’s Fifteen Restaurant on 15th December. As well as a plethora of awesome food on tap, it’s BYO food gift or other toke, to be given to the less fortunate in the community
  • Fortnum & Mason’s third annual Charity Christmas Party on 4th December was, unsurprisingly, a sold-out affair. Across the four floors of its iconic Piccadilly residence, 1,000 suited and booted folk attended the Big Give event, complete with African dancers, champagne, canapés and tastings – and all with 100% of profits donated to charity

What other food-related charity have you come across this Christmas? Have you donated to a food bank or taken part in a local baking event? Let us know in the comments section.


*On 26 December this article was updated to reflect the Mince Pie Project’s final fundraised amount.

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