Vouchers for vegetables  – a  radical and simple solution

31 October 2023

Written by: Lambeth Council

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The Beacon Project means ‘healthcare done differently’ – including healthier eating on prescription in partership with Lambeth Council.

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Vouchers for vegetables  – a  radical and simple solution

Reporting for BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme, journalist Sheila Dillon spoke to a Lambeth GP on how a pioneering Lambeth healthcare scheme – with fresh fruit and veg  on prescription for communities in need of healthier diets – could be a New Model for the NHS.

Dr Chi-Chi Ekhator of the Beacon Project explained how health professionals reach out via barbershops, community shops, and other community spaces to patients at risk from high blood pressure. Local market traders confirmed they were happy to sell more fruit and vegetables to people paying for them with vouchers provided by a partnership between the council and the Alexandra Rose charity, and local people talked about making lifestyle changes to lower cholesterol and hypertension.

Healthy eating changes

The programme also Lambeth’s ‘Healthy Eating and Recipes for Black Communities’ cookbook. A lot of the diet advice available creates the illusion that only certain kinds of food are healthy – and there’s not enough culturally specific healthy eating advice.. The cookbook is now on its fifth edition. It’s based around making swaps – like soaking to lower salt, and baking instead of frying – keeping traditional meals good to eat as well as better for you.

Word from the Cabinet

Lambeth Cabinet Member for Healthier Communities, Councillor Jim Dickson, was interviewed to give the Council’s view on the success of the pilot scheme:

“We’re strongly in favour on public health grounds, on prevention grounds. It’s good for the local economy. It’s a great early intervention to try and reverse some of what the wider economy is doing to people.

“I’d love to do this voucher work across a much wider swathe of the population. It’s based on people doing things they want to do rather than force upon people things they are resistant to.

“It’s really important that we tackle health at the grass roots. We have a health inequalities fund of nearly a million pounds and we’re working with six other local authorities to invest in grassroots organisations on initiatives like this, because the evidence is that they’re really starting to bear fruit.”.

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