Fruits and Roots

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Lanarkshire Community Food and Health Partnership (LCFHP), a community-based charity that has been in business for over 20 years.  We have worked closely with Glasgow University’s Human Nutrition Department to evaluate the Fruits and Roots Project

The university’s research team has also been involved evalutating our other 2 projects.  Fruits and Roots is a project that has seen fruit and vegetable mobile co-ops set up at the entrance of three local acute hospitals; Monklands, Hairmyres and Wishaw General.

We feel very strongly that the interventions we design work and this is a way of proving that it works. ‘It’s a way of getting an external agency to prove it rather than us doing it ourselves. That makes the validation stronger and also ensures our results can be monitored more effectively

The Fruits and Roots project, which is part of WHO’s Health Promoting Hospital initiative, aims to help increase the fruit and vegetable intake of people in Lanarkshire where currently only 15% of the population eat the minimum five portions a day and one in 10 don’t eat any.

Due to us only charging cost price plus 10% for our produce, we are able to sell at about a third less than most supermarkets or corner shops. The Monklands stall, which opens twice a week from 9.15am to 3pm, has now been operating for more than two years and the other two, which open once a week, for over a year. Between them they are now selling fruit and veg to around 1,000 staff, outpatients and visitors each week and netting over £45,000 in takings every year.

Evaluation details and benefits

Glasgow University’s initial evaluation of 202 customers in June suggests they are already having an impact. Customers – mainly staff but also visitors – generally rated the food as high quality and good value. Most significantly, just over half said they were now eating more fruit and vegetables than previously.

Having an external evaluation by an organisation with Glasgow University’s reputation has been a big boost for LCFHP in terms of raising our profile

In particular, it offers the team a set of skills they would otherwise not have access to.  This has been particularly useful in terms of statistical analysis. They’ve also been able to bring to the design of the evaluation issues we wouldn’t have thought about due to us being more focused on the operations side.

Not all of the research team’s ideas worked. For instance, it wanted to collect BMI information about customers, but this proved impossible to implement partly because purchasers were themselves resistant to the idea.  However working with Glasgow University has given us and the project a lot more credability.

The collaboration has also benefited the university, in that it has provided the opportunity to undertake and interpret research in a real-life situation, as well as understand some of the problems and pitfalls of analysing non-standardised data. Meanwhile the students have had the chance to put theory into practice and present their research findings.

Finally, it has given the project’s partners – NHS Lanarkshire – an objective way of measuring impact based on specific short-term outputs (subjective indicators of fruit and vegetable consumption based on memory recall).  The project has also helped to increase their understanding of the need to have health promotion in acute settings and not just focus on waiting times and HEAT targets.

Fruits and Roots now seems to be an integral part of the three hospitals’ way of working and we are currently looking at ways of expanding this offering within the hospitals.

It is also envisaged that further evaluation of the scheme with Glasgow University over the next few years will continue. One area that we are keen to explore is health outcomes, possibly by looking at sickness and absenteeism figures in the three hospitals to see if they are improving as a result of higher intakes of fruit and vegetables.

Another area which we might look at, is the reason for half of customers increasing their fruit and vegetable consumption. ‘Is it about physically being there, about offering health promotion activities and recipes? Or is it something else? At the moment we still don’t know. But we hope to find out!

NHS Lanarkshire - Fruits and Roots