With support from a Community Health Improvement Grant from West Lothian Community Health Partnership, Cyrenians is piloting a subsidised local fruit and veg scheme in West Lothian. This scheme provides bags of organic produce from their farms as well as other community growing initiatives at a largely discounted rate £6 for 8 items (instead of £10) – to families on low income. To ensure easy and dignified access, they will be distributed through the Cyrenians recovery hub, other support groups and the local Home-Start, which will promote the bags to families experiencing challenges. Home-Start will offer families the option to choose between a subsidised or full-rate bag, depending on what they can afford and in a process based on trust.
Inspired by the work of the US-based Wholesome Wave Foundationand the Rose Voucher scheme in London, the bags will also be offered to families beyond West Lothian who are entitled to means-tested Healthy Start vouchers. Since 2006, the UK-wide NHS Healthy Start programme has provided vouchers for milk and fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables to eligible pregnant women and families with children under four. They receive £6.20 a week for each baby aged 0-1 and £3.10 for each child aged 1-4, which they can spend at registered retailers. As many areas currently lack easy access to registered retailers providing good quality and affordable fresh produce, community food initiatives such as Cyrenians can play an important role in starting to fill this gap and make the vouchers go further.