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Corner shops in £800,000 scheme to tackle obesity

13 November 2008

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Corner shops in the north east will be the first in England to pilot an £800,000 scheme to get the country eating more fruit and veg and reduce obesity, public health minister Dawn Primarolo announced today (13 November 2008).

The Department of Health (DH) is providing £200,000 this year and £300,000 for the next two years to help local shops sell and promote fruit and veg. Twelve stores have already signed up to the pilot, with the aim of 120 coming onboard by next May.

In the north east, 12.5% of children aged 2–15 are obese, with a further 15.5% qualifying as overweight. In adults, 61% of men and 60% of women are overweight or obese. The north east was chosen as the template region due to its poor general health record compared to other parts of the country, in particular with regards to childhood obesity.

Shops involved in the pilot will sell a wider range of fruit and vegetables and display them prominently within their stores. In return, the DH will assign a project co-ordinator to work with each store and offer advice on maximising profits, minimising waste, and displaying and promoting the new fresh produce to the local community.

Shopkeepers will also be able to link up with local initiatives, such as cooking clubs, in a bid to help their customers learn how to build fruit and vegetables into their diet.

A similar scheme is already up and running in Scotland. Corner shops north of the border have seen an increase in profits ranging from 20% to 400%. People living near the shops have reported that it has encouraged them to eat more fruit and vegetables.

Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said: “”Around half of secondary school pupils tend to go to corner shops on the way to or from school to buy snacks, so it’s essential they’re offered a healthy option.

“Our aim is to help up to 120 local shops in the north east to sell good fresh produce. With this scheme, everyone’s a winner – people living nearby will be able to buy fresh fruit and veg and shop keepers should see their profits soar.”

The DH has been working with the Association of Convenience Stores and its membership of key symbol groups in the north east, including Spar, Costcutter, Musgrave, Londis and Nisa Local, to secure retailers for the pilot project. All retailers have agreed to match fund the government’s contributions.

James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, said: “Convenience stores trade at the heart of communities throughout the country, and ensuring there is a strong selection of healthy, fresh produce on offer is an important step forward in tackling obesity.”