The Alexandra Rose Charity, which helps low-income families access a healthy diet, is to mark its two millionth fruit and veg voucher with an event in Barnsley

Rose Vouchers help low-income families eat fresh fruit and veg

Rose Vouchers help low-income families eat fresh fruit and veg

A London-based charity which works to alleviate health inequalities and food poverty across the UK is hosting a celebration event in Barnsley, south Yorkshire, on 26 May to celebrate giving away its two millionth free fruit and veg voucher.

In just under a decade, the Alexandra Rose Charity has distributed two million Rose Vouchers for free fruit and veg to families on low incomes via 10 projects in eight different locations around the UK. 

The charity runs its Rose Vouchers for Fruit & Veg project via children and community centres in Barnsley, Glasgow, Liverpool and five separate areas of London (Hackney, Lambeth, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Hammersmith and Fulham).

A family receives £4 of Rose Vouchers for each child every week, or £6 if the child is under one year old, which can be redeemed for fresh fruit and veg at their local wholesale market or greengrocer.  

Meanwhile, the charity’s Fruit & Veg on Prescription project – launched last year in partnership with public health teams in the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Lambeth – gives at-risk individuals up to £8 per week in Rose Vouchers, plus £2 per week for each household member, to spend with local fresh produce traders.

Both schemes help families and individuals on low incomes to buy fresh fruit and veg, and supports them to give their children the healthiest possible start.

Since 2014, Rose Vouchers have supported 9,351 families and 17,380 children to access fresh fruit and veg in their communities from 66 different children’s centres and community organisations. At the end of May 2023, two million Rose Vouchers will have been given out and spent with 58 different market traders and greengrocers.

To celebrate this important milestone, Alexandra Rose Charity will be hosting an invitation-only event in Barnsley on Friday 26 May at 10.30am until 12.30pm. Families and market traders, as well as the charity’s funders and key dignitaries, will attend.

Jonathan Pauling, chief executive at Alexandra Rose Charity, said: “Our project here in Barnsley is hugely representative of the work we do across the UK. The project’s success proves that the Rose Vouchers for Fruit and Veg Project works anywhere and not just in London. For that reason, it is the perfect, and most central, location for our celebration event.”

Rose Vouchers have supported 1,952 families in Barnsley since 2016 when the project was launched there. There are ten family centres in the town distributing Rose Vouchers that can be used in Barnsley Markets, as well as AG Greengrocer in Hoyland, Smiths Fruit Stores in Wombwell, Leversleys Quality Produce in Wath on Dearne, and a stall at Barnsley Hospital.

Alexandra Rose Charity celebrated its last milestone in 2021 when its millionth voucher was spent by a family in North End Road Market in Hammersmith and Fulham. Since then, the charity has scaled up its mission, enhanced efficiency and distributed a further one million vouchers in less than two years.

Pauling added: “Demand for our work still outstrips our capacity, and although we celebrate this milestone, we continue to worry about the huge challenges families face up and down the country. We will continue to collaborate with our brilliant local partners to make sure as many families as possible can have access to healthy, fresh fruit and veg in their local communities.”

The charity said diet-related ill health costs the NHS billions every year, but more importantly, it is limiting the life chances of people on low incomes.

Henry Dimbleby, author of The National Food Strategy, former Lead Non-Executive Director at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and co-founder of Leon, Chefs in Schools, and the Sustainable Restaurant Association, said: “This milestone is a terrific achievement from Alexandra Rose Charity. Everyone should have access to healthy and affordable food, but right now, that’s incredibly hard. The rising cost of living, low-paid, unstable jobs, and a food environment flooded with junk food, means more and more people are struggling with food poverty and diet-related disease.”

The charity said it will continue to support families across the eight Rose Vouchers for Fruit & Veg Project areas over the coming year while building on the recent successful launch of its Fruit & Veg on Prescription Project working with health practitioners and social prescribers to increase access to healthy food for people suffering from long term health conditions.

It is also involved in the national Bridging the Gap Project, that aims to increase access to local, sustainably produced food for those on low incomes. This Project will see several pilots delivered across the UK over the next two years.

Alongside its programme work, Alexandra Rose Charity will continue to advocate for a more equitable food system and make the case to policymakers for the significant role that financial incentives can play in creating a healthier and more sustainable food system.

Founded in 1912 in the UK by Queen Alexandra, the Alexandra Rose Charity was established to support Londoners in poverty. Inspired by a priest in her native Denmark selling roses to raise money for those in need, Queen Alexandra brought the idea back to the UK.