Fresh fruit and vegetables prescribed to low-income families in UK trial |  UK cost of living crisis

Fresh fruit and vegetables prescribed to low-income families in UK trial | UK cost of living crisis

Fresh fruits and vegetables are being distributed by prescription to low-income families as part of a trial public health program aimed at tackling growing hunger and poverty-related health inequalities due to the cost of living crisis in the UK.

Around 120 people with chronic illnesses and mental health issues living in two of the UK’s poorest neighborhoods receive weekly vouchers to spend on fresh groceries as part of a nine-month £250,000 project £.

The vouchers, worth up to £8 a week with an additional £2 for each child in the household, are given to participants identified by NHS-funded social prescribing staff at two projects, the Bromley by Bow center in Tower Hamlets and the Beacon. Project in Lambeth.

It started last month, amid rising food insecurity and evidence that soaring grocery costs were preventing people from buying healthy foods, causing a nutritional slump in low-income families and encouraging conditions such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

Early reports from participants are positive, from parents able to recharge their failing family diet and fill their fruit bowl to reports of children choosing fruit over crisps for a snack.

“It has made a huge difference to us,” said Asia, a single mother of three who lives in Tower Hamlets. Before the cost of living crisis, she spent £20 a week on fruit and vegetables: family favorites were sweet potato curries, plantain, cabbage, broccoli, kiwi, bananas. Then food prices started to skyrocket.

“We started eating less, including much less fruit and vegetables,” she said. “One of the hardest things was not being able to leave the bowl of fruit outside. Bananas would be rationed. How do you tell your kids they’re not allowed to eat fruit? Do you realize that the chips and chocolate were actually cheaper.

She added: “It wasn’t just that we were eating less food, we weren’t getting enough protein or weren’t getting enough nutrients and vitamin C. It seemed like we were constantly getting sick and we were getting sick. feeling listless and out of energy.”

In just a few weeks, Asia, who is on Universal Credit, said the £12-a-week vouchers she spent at a fruit and veg stall in Tower Hamlets had improved her family’s general well-being (“the kids seem to have more energy”) and eased his strained finances.

Healthy foods cost more, with potatoes and broccoli costing more than six times more per calorie than chocolate and other less healthy foods. In Tower Hamlets, 56% of all children live in poverty. “It’s heartbreaking. Some children only eat fruits and vegetables when they are in school,” Asia said.

Co-funded by the Alexandra Rose Charity and local public health officials, the hope is that the program will show how the food-related public health crisis in the UK could be managed, as well as help solve its food insecurity problem.

Jonathan Pauling, the charity’s chief executive, said if the scheme was successful the hope was that fruit and vegetable vouchers would be routinely available on the NHS. “We hope this will make it easier for people in difficulty to access healthy food,” he said.

For Pauling, the idea is simple: fruit is not only delicious but also effective medicine. The UK is facing a food-related health crisis that is destroying lives and costing the NHS billions. Fruits and vegetables are a vital and natural elixir: “You can’t get out of these problems with conventional medicine,” he said.

The scheme is based on the Community Eatwell idea promoted by former government food czar Henry Dimbleby, which sparked initial ministerial interest but appears to have been killed off after former health secretary Therese Coffey dropped out the white paper on health inequalities in September.

Prof Sam Everington, a GP in Bromley-by-Bow and chair of the Tower Hamlets NHS clinical commissioning group, said the health service should embrace such schemes. “When I trained over 40 years ago, type 2 diabetes was a disease of the elderly. We see it now in teenagers. Much of it can be avoided with a healthy diet and good regular physical activity. Fruits and vegetables should be part of every prescription,” he said.

Dr Chi-Chi Ekhator, GP responsible for the Beacon project, said the program would help patients reduce their fruit and vegetable intake by making ‘heat or eat’ choices. There were serious risks for those who relied on healthy eating to help manage their chronic conditions. The program, she said, “would make a huge difference”.

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