Press release: Charity urges all parties to commit to national fruit and veg on prescription programmes

The first UK trial of GPs prescribing fruit and vegetables has shown promising results, leading to the charity behind the project to call for nationwide programmes to boost health and reduce food poverty.

Alexandra Rose Charity, is currently running fruit and veg on prescriptions pilots in two London Boroughs, released findings this week sharing the profound impact the project has had on the lives of people on low incomes, living with long-term health conditions linked to poor diet.

After just 8 months of receiving vouchers for fruit and veg, 80% of participants are eating five portions of fruit and veg each day, compared to just 28% at the start of the programme. The health impacts of this change are striking: 9 in 10 participants have seen their physical health improve, including healthy weight loss, higher energy levels and better digestion. Additionally, 7 in 10 people with high blood pressure saw an improvement as recorded by doctors and nurses. Over half of participants shared that their mental health has also improved as they worry less about money for food. With support from social prescribers and healthcare professionals, these positive changes have collectively resulted in a 40% reduction in GP visits.

“Food related ill health costs the UK £98 Billion[1] per year in costs to the health service and to the economy. Behind those bald numbers, lies untold misery to the sufferers and their family and carers. All of this is inflicted disproportionately on those living in poverty. By taking this one simple action – providing fruit and veg on prescription the government could do so much to assuage that. And now Alexandra Rose Charity has provided the hard evidence, there is no excuse for delay. Their Fruit & Veg on Prescription Project improves not only the diet and health of people but also the health of the local food economy. I urge government to take a look at the impressive results from these pilots and explore how these can be replicated and scaled as part of a ‘Community Eatwell’ approach to tackling food-related ill health in the UK, as recommended in the 2021 National Food Strategy.” 

Henry Dimbleby, Author of the National Food Strategy Independent Review

Only 1 in 4 adults eat the recommended five portions of fruit and veg a day. Consequently, in 2019, diets low in fruit and veg accounted for 16,000 premature deaths in the UK. With healthy food more than twice as expensive per calorie than less healthy food, affordability is a huge barrier for people on the lowest incomes to get enough fruit and veg into their diet.

“Food isn’t getting cheaper, healthy food least of all. Our mission is to make it easier for everyone to access fresh fruit and veg in their communities. This is a simple intervention that works. It is now time for the government to act on the evidence and progress to a national roll out of trials of Fruit & Veg and Veg on Prescription as a part of their already stated commitment to the ‘Community Eatwell’ programme. This should form part of wider measures to boost health, address food poverty and reshape our food systems for the health of those most in need.”

Jonathan Pauling, Chief Executive, Alexandra Rose Charity

Run in partnership with the Bromley by Bow Centre in Tower Hamlets and community health practitioners at the AT Beacon Project in Lambeth, almost 200 individuals took part in the project, receiving up to £8 in Rose Vouchers every week, which were spent on the fruit and veg of their choice at local markets and food co-ops.

“We all know that the food we eat plays a vital role in our health, but sadly we are seeing more and more people struggling with food poverty and food-related ill health. At the Beacon Project we understand the importance of building trust in our community in innovative ways to support those who have fallen through the cracks of healthcare systems as a result of inequalities in accessing health and wellbeing support. We know that change is possible, and we see the Fruit & Veg on Prescription project making a significant difference to the health of people in our community.”    

Dr Chi Chi Ekhator, GP Lead, AT Beacon Project

With Rose Vouchers covering most or all of their fruit and veg costs, the project also significantly reduces food insecurity, with many people sharing they now worry less about money for food. One participant receiving Rose Vouchers for fruit & veg shared: “Before the Rose Vouchers I didn’t even eat fruit because it takes so much out of my money… but now I don’t have to spend my cash and I can try different fruit and vegetables.”

Funding for the pilots has come from local Public Health teams.

“The Public Health team from Lambeth Council has worked with local providers Alexandra Rose Charity and A.T Beacon to develop and deliver this innovative project. The findings from the pilot are very positive and encouraging. Most importantly, Lambeth residents who have engaged with the project say that the support provided and the opportunity to add fruit and vegetables on prescription to their diet has helped them lead healthier and happier lives.”

Cllr Jim Dickson, Cabinet Member for Healthier Communities

“We are delighted to be collaborating with the Alexandra Rose Charity. This project not only increases access to fruit and veg but also supports local businesses and improves the health and well-being of residents.”

Dr Somen Banerjee, Director of Public Health Tower Hamlets

The full report on the charity’s findings is available to read here: