Charity’s voucher project hits important milestone as food prices continue to soar

A national charity that works to alleviate health inequalities and food poverty in the UK has recently reached their two millionth voucher milestone.

Alexandra Rose Charity runs ten projects in eight locations around the UK, including Liverpool. In just under ten years, the charity has distributed two million Rose Vouchers for free fruit and veg to families on low incomes – a project that continues to become more in demand every day.

The charity’s Rose Vouchers for Fruit & Veg Project and the Fruit & Veg on Prescription project helps families and individuals on low incomes to buy fresh fruit and veg with Rose Vouchers 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 centres and community organisations. At the end of May 2023, two million Rose Vouchers will have been spent with 58 different market traders and greengrocers.

Abdullah, a dad from Liverpool, said: “I’ve had Rose Vouchers for between two/three years, I first heard about them from the children’s centre where my son was going to nursery. I now also get the vouchers for my daughter.

“Rose Vouchers help me save money on fruit & veg. I usually buy the basics with my vouchers, like onions, tomatoes, and lettuce, to make meals. With the vouchers, I can buy extra fruit & veg and shop whenever I need to get more. This does help me.

“Everything is going up. First of all, we thought it would just be the gas and electricity, but it’s food too, and to be honest, it’s hard. Having Rose Vouchers, takes some of the trouble away from buying what I need. They do make a difference.”

Queen of Greens bus brings affordable fresh fruit and vegetables to communities across Liverpool and Knowsley. Paul, one of the traders, said, “When I heard that the Rose Vouchers were coming to Liverpool, I wanted to be involved. I think it’s one of the best ideas I’ve been part of. The Liverpool Rose Vouchers for Fruit & Veg Project benefits so many people, especially with the cost-of-living crisis. They’re making a difference.”

Sheila Allward from Wavertree Children’s Centre which organises Rose Vouchers in their region, said, “Our families really appreciate the financial help of the Rose Vouchers that are provided by the Alexandra Rose Charity as it gives them the choice of being able to buy healthier, quality food for themselves and their families.

“Many of our families have told us how they love to have a chat with Paul, the man who runs the van, as well as chatting with the other families at the van.”

Lucy Antal, Chair of the Liverpool Rose Vouchers for Fruit & Veg Project Steering Group, said, “Super proud to support the Liverpool Rose Vouchers for Fruit and Veg Project, helping young families to access fresh, nutritious food is such vital, rewarding work.”

Cllr Liz Parsons, from Liverpool City Council, said, “As a long-time supporter of Alexandra Rose Charity and their Rose Vouchers for Fruit & Veg Project in Liverpool, I am delighted to see them reach this landmark of 2 million Rose Vouchers redeemed. Since Rose Vouchers launched in Liverpool in 2017, they have been a lifeline for so many families struggling to afford fresh fruit and veg for their children.

“Thanks to Rose Vouchers, nearly 1,000 families in our community have been able to shop every week on the mobile fruit and veg van which visits local children’s centres. An incredible £208,779 worth of Rose Vouchers has been spent here in the last six years. We know the importance of giving children the healthiest possible start in life. We are proud to be part of this project’s achievements.”

Jonathan Pauling, Chief Executive at Alexandra Rose Charity, said: “We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved over the last nine years. We started small by testing the Rose Vouchers for Fruit & Veg Project in local communities in London. As news spread of its effectiveness at combating food poverty and promoting healthier diets, we received requests from other locations across the UK to expand the project.

“It took us seven years to get to one million vouchers but only 18 months to get to our second million. This shows how quickly the project can be scaled to meet rising demand but also, sadly, is an indictment of the impact of both COVID-19 and the cost-of-living crisis on families on low incomes across the UK.

“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 cost-of-living crisis, which was kick-started by rising energy costs, has also caused huge spikes in the cost of food. According to the Resolution Foundation, an independent think-tank that focuses on living standards for those on low to middle incomes, the food price shock is about to overtake the energy price shock as the biggest threat to family finances.

Food shopping is now making up a far larger share of a typical household’s financial outgoings with the average increase in food costs since 2019-20 at £1,000, compared to that of £900 for energy bills.

Jonathan added: “With such stark statements on the cost of living holding true, services such as Alexandra Rose Charity’s, will continue to be a lifeline for many families trying to access healthier foods, and prevent many from suffering from diet-related illnesses.”

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

The charity 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.

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