Those eligible for the scheme get £3 in vouchers per child every week, or £6 if the child is under the age of one. Photograph: courtesy Hackney Council

More than 3,000 Rose Vouchers for low-income families have been cashed in at Ridley Road Market in the space of just 10 days, after all traders agreed to accept them in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The vouchers, introduced by the Alexandra Rose Charity in 2014, help people struggling financially to access fresh fruit and vegetables at local markets.

Before the pandemic, only three traders would take them, but since all stallholders got on board, council officers have been working to speed up the payment process.

This has allowed traders to focus on customers during the new opening hours of 8am to 3pm, as they also contend with social distancing measures and patrolled queuing.

One parent who uses the vouchers said: “Now I am so happy because my boys are eating broccoli, cauliflower, okra, spinach.

“The lady at my market stall knows that I like spinach that I can cut so that it grows again and makes my money go further.”

Families who have attended previous Rose Voucher evaluation sessions said the scheme has provided extra income, but that shopping at the market saved them over £30 a week.

They also talked up the health benefits of eating more fresh food.

To be eligible for Rose Vouchers, people must meet the criteria of the NHS Healthy Start scheme for pregnant women and families claiming benefits.

Those who qualify receive £3 in vouchers per child per week, or £6 if the child is under one year old. 

Town Hall business chief Cllr Guy Nicholson said: “Ridley Road street market has been keeping families fed with healthy fresh fruit and veg at affordable prices since the 1800s and it still provides this service to this day.

“Market traders and the council have been working with the Alexander Rose Charity to implement the Rose Voucher scheme and with great success – over three thousand vouchers used in ten days means families have had access to fresh, healthy food.”

The Alexandra Rose Charity was founded in 1912 by Denmark’s Queen Alexandra to support Londoners in poverty.

Inspired by a priest in her native country who would sell roses to raise money, the Queen brought the idea to the UK.

In 2014, the charity turned its attention to food poverty and introduced its vouchers across local markets.

For more information on the voucher scheme, visit alexandrarose.org.uk 

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