Gus Schumacher Joins visit to Brixton Market
We had the pleasure last week to welcome Gus Schumacher to Brixton Market to see the Rose vouchers for Fruit & Veg project in action. Gus is the Founding Board Chair of Wholesome Wave and it was his visit in 2012 that was the original inspiration for the creation of the Rose Voucher project. At that time I worked for the Mayor of London’s Food Board and I arranged for Gus to speak to a panel of our Board Members. There was such enthusiasm after the visit and we all wondered how we could replicate their double value voucher system that he had pioneered in the US to help low income families access more fruit & veg. In an amazing piece of serendipity two weeks later Alexandra Rose approached me to ask for advice. They wanted to concentrate the focus of the charity towards work to tackle food poverty and support healthy eating and wanted to know where their energies and resources could be most effectively targeted in this sphere. Amazingly when we proposed the crazy idea of funding a pilot to test the double value voucher idea they jumped at the opportunity. And the rest, as they say, is history. With the support of Rosie Boycott and the London Food Board, Alexandra Rose commissioned Food Matters to develop the business case and the subsequent pilots in Greenwich and Hackney.
That was four years ago. All the while we’ve been keeping in touch with Gus and he has been following the development of our model with interest from afar. In 2015 ARC became the first global member of Wholesome Waves Nutrition Incentive Network and we have been swapping ideas across the Atlantic ever since. So it was a huge pleasure to welcome Gus to Brixton Market last Friday, to show him how we had taken his idea (tweaking it to suit UK conditions) and made a success of it over here.
We were joined on the visit by Trustees of ARC, members of the Department of Health’s obesity team, the Lambeth Food Flagship Manager and board member from the Artemis Foundation – one of our funders.
The group were led on a tour of the Market by Stuart Horwood – the Chief Executive of Brixton Market Trader’s Federation. He introduced us to all the participating stall holders and explained why the project was one of the best things that has happened to the market in a long time. Stuart is a great supporter of our work because he can see how it is driving new customers to the market – increasing the footfall and the vibrancy and attracting a new generation to the joys of market shopping. All the stall holders told us they thought the project was a huge success and enjoyed the interaction with the Rose Voucher families – especially the young children who came with their parents.
Gus really enjoyed the visit. He was struck by the huge diversity of produce from around the world and how cheap the prices were. We compared notes with his work in the States and he told us how they were using new technologies to enhance the scheme and how they were branching out from farmers markets and developing relationships with supermarket and convenience stores. The discussions gave us a large amount of food for thought especially in challenging us to think about the potential for engaging with different types of retail and the pros and cons of doing so.
ARC are committed to growing and expanding this kind of incentivisation scheme in the UK. It gives us great heart that these schemes have already proven their worth in the US and are receiving wholehearted support from Federal, State and City governments as well as philanthropists and corporates. We hope we can emulate their success here in the UK but we have a long, long way to go.
Alexandra Rose Charity