Market traders in Barnsley have helped to feed more than 650 families on low incomes since embracing an innovative charitable voucher project.
The Rose Vouchers for Fruit & Veg project is run by the Alexandra Rose Charity, in seven locations around the UK. Barnsley is currently the only location in Yorkshire where the project is established.
The project, which launched in Barnsley five years ago, helps families facing food poverty to access fresh fruit and vegetables.
A family receives £3 of Rose Vouchers for each child, every week, or £6 if the child is under one year old.
The vouchers can be exchanged at four stalls at Barnsley Markets – recently transformed and modernised as part of The Glass Works development scheme, as well as two outlets in Wombwell, Lorraine’s at Barnsley Hospital, one in New Lodge and one at Penistone Market.
Barnsley Markets trader Darren Slack, who runs DS Fruits, joined the scheme when it was launched.
“This scheme gives children the healthiest start,” said Darren.
“Buying fruit and vegetables from a supermarket can quickly get expensive if you’ve got kids but we’re able to give families what they actually want and need. Because we are already great value, they get a lot more in their shopping bags.”
Fellow trader Alan Parkes, who runs the nearby 5 A Day stall, added: “It’s brilliant that the traders have managed to support so many families. It’s a privilege to be involved with the Alexandra Rose Charity and see the impact it’s having in Barnsley.”
Mum of three Kelly Drury has been using Rose Vouchers to help feed her family and says they have been a “lifesaver” during lockdown.
“I had a baby during lockdown and I’ve got a six-year-old and a four-year-old. With the children being at home more in lockdown, the Rose Vouchers have been a life-saver as I’ve been able to access more fruit and vegetables. The children are now eating 10 times more fruit, including berries and strawberries, which can be expensive.”
“I feel we are eating healthier,” added Kelly, who is 33 and lives at Athersley North.
“I cook from scratch, I do not use jars and I’m budgeting. The stallholders are lovely, very helpful and I have had some deliveries also.”
Kelly has attended cook and eat sessions at her local family centre to support her home-cooking efforts.
She also takes part in a weekly virtual cooking group with other families organised by the family centre, which is one of 10 family centres in Barnsley involved with the Alexandra Rose Charity.
“I feel my mental health has eased as I now take time out to attend the cook and eat sessions and family cooking sessions.
“The staff at Athersley North Family Centre have been brilliant, so supportive and helpful.”
Cllr Trevor Cave, Cabinet Spokesperson for Children’s Services at Barnsley Council, said: “Barnsley’s market traders have always offered a warm welcome and provide an incredible service to the community. It’s fantastic to see how they’re supporting this vitally important project and are supporting the Barnsley community.
“I’m sure they’ve made a big difference to many families, particularly during the pandemic when finances have been particularly tight.
“Helping families give their children a healthy start is a huge priority for the council and we’re very proud of our market traders.
“The new Markets are packed full of great value food stalls and are fundamental to the transformation that’s going on in Barnsley town centre.
“The Rose Voucher scheme is encouraging people to visit the market and shop locally. That is great news for everyone and we’re confident it will continue as The Glass Works development, of which the Markets forms a central part, aims for completion at the end of the year.”
The Alexandra Rose Charity was founded in 1912 by Queen Alexandra to support Londoners in poverty.
In recent years, the charity has focused on supporting families struggling with food poverty and launched the Barnsley project; its first beyond London.
Since then, it has grown to become one of the biggest projects with over 650 families receiving Rose Vouchers. A total of 331 Barnsley families currently receive vouchers.
Jonathan Pauling, Chief Executive of the Alexandra Rose Charity said: “We are really proud of the beneficial impact the Rose Vouchers for Fruit & Veg project has had for families in Barnsley.
“This success is hugely dependent on the commitment of family centre staff and market traders, who are dedicated to supporting their community.
“The project has been running here for five years after Barnsley won a national competition to become our first project outside of London. Since then, it has grown to become one of our biggest projects, supporting hundreds of families to access fresh fruit and veg while at the same time encouraging them to shop locally to support their independent market traders and greengrocers.”