THIS weekend will see the annual Christmas trolley dash, as shoppers descend on the supermarkets to stock up for the big day. The result can be that strange phenomenon known as trolley gridlock, where the queues for the checkouts are so long, they block the aisles of people still trying to load up.

It’s a lot to eat and drink. In December, the average monthly household spend on food increases by 20 per cent and on alcohol by 30 per cent. In January, the nation then attempts to shift the estimated 127 million kilogrammes it has put on over the festive period.

These numbers stand in stark contrast to those on the opposite end of the scales. This week I caught up with Lucy Duffy, general manager of the Trussell Trust Foodbank here in Salisbury. Christmas for them is also their busiest time of the year. Last December, the charity nationally handed out almost 160,000 three-day emergency food supplies – a 49 per cent increase on the monthly average. These December 2017 figures were also 10 per cent higher than December 2016: the numbers for 2018 are expected to rise again, making this December the busiest month for foodbanks on record.

Why is Christmas such a difficult period? Colder weather and increased heating bills is a factor. School holidays are another issue: two weeks without free school meals can also make a difference if money is tight. Christmas can easily stretch budgets to breaking point or push people into debt to survive.

This week, Lucy and her team of volunteers are preparing over 300 food parcels to hand out locally (over Christmas, while the foodbank is closed, there’ll be emergency supplies available at Salisbury and Amesbury Fire Stations). It always seems strange that somewhere like Salisbury, with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, requires a foodbank. But as Lucy says, there is an ‘affluent façade’ to the city. A lot of the need might not be immediately visible, but it is very much there.

It was here in Salisbury, of course, that the Trussell Trust originally began. Campaigning to fund their work in Bulgaria, founder Paddy Henderson was rung up by a woman after a piece in the local paper: ‘You’re feeding overseas when my kids are going hungry tonight’, she told him. That was the beginning of the Salisbury foodbank. Twenty years on, the Trussell Trust now has over 420 foodbanks across the country, yet the need for them still continues to grow.

So if you’re braving the queues at Waitrose or Tesco this weekend, why not add a can at one of the charity’s permanent collection points? Alternatively, why not donate online at This is, after all, a time for giving.

Merry Christmas!