It’s safe to say that 2020 has turned out rather differently than we planned, we’ve had to think on our feet and act fast this year to ensure the families we support can continue to access fresh fruit and veg that they need. With many families being hit hard financially by the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis, our work has never been more important. It’s been a challenge but we’re proud of how we have dealt with the situation. 

We took swift action two weeks ahead of the lockdown to get vouchers into the hands of families. Together with our children’s centre partners, we distributed eight weeks’ worth of vouchers to families before everything closed.

While most children’s centres were forced to close, they quickly adapted their distribution model to post vouchers out or arranging socially distanced collections, rather than have the usual in-person collections.

Working remotely and unable to support their families face to face, many centres provided support via email and phone. They witnessed some families were experiencing terrible isolation, particularly those that had recently given birth, with none of the usual support services available. One children’s centre worker told us that one service they have been able to offer consistently throughout has been our Rose Vouchers for Fruit and Veg Project.

“The one thing that has been constant has been Rose Vouchers, which is lovely." 

The Rose Vouchers for Fruit and Veg Project relies on our network of markets and independent retailers to provide affordable places for families to spend their Rose Vouchers. A few weeks into lockdown, several of our markets began to close, mainly due to concerns about social distancing. Suddenly, we were faced with struggling families, already experiencing severe economic hardship, unable to redeem their vouchers in their neighbourhoods, and no way of ensuring that their young children could continue to access a healthy diet.

We realised that we had to do everything possible to keep markets open. We teamed up with other organisations campaigning to keep markets open as vital sources of affordable food and ran a public campaign, #KeepMarketsOpen. Thankfully the message began to get through and slowly markets, which had been forced to close, began to reopen and stayed open. Local markets teams seized the opportunity to sign up new traders to the scheme. 12 new traders have been recruited since lockdown began, so the families we work with now have even more choice about where they can shop.

As a result of our collective hard work, an amazing £131,753 worth of Rose Vouchers have been redeemed across all our project areas between April and September 2020.

To date, 3,350 families have been supported by our Rose Vouchers for Fruit and Veg Project, meaning families on low incomes have been able to access fresh fruit and veg and provide healthy food choices for their children during this difficult time.

Our next challenge will be to continue to support the families we currently work with as well as expanding our capacity to support the growing need for our work. By May 2020 4.9 million adults in the UK were experiencing some form of food insecurity, almost 250% higher than pre-COVID levels. Latest figures show that 14% of families with children have experienced food insecurity in the last six months.[1]

We are currently working with children’s centres to plan for future possible disruptions. We are also exploring new kinds of local partnerships that could lead to different types of distribution partners being invited to join the scheme, to help us reach the families most in need.  

We’d like to say a big thank you to all our fantastic partners, funders and supporters who are helping us be part of the solution and navigate these unusual times.

[1] https://foodfoundation.org.uk/