A healthy appetite for scale
How Scale Accelerator helped the charity disrupting Britain’s food poverty cycle
In 2017 Alexandra Rose’s pioneering food voucher programme was reaching hundreds in poverty, today it has scaled to reach thousands, through a bold strategy to stimulate local food economies.
Britain is facing a food poverty crisis. Healthy food is now three times more expensive than unhealthy food. In areas across the country where inequality is most entrenched, families do not have the spending power to make healthy choices for themselves and their families.
This has a knock-on effect on the lives of children. In England almost one in three primary-aged children are either overweight or obese, whilst many teachers report seeing schoolchildren struggling to concentrate in lessons because they are hungry.
Alexandra Rose Charity is driven by a simple and powerful belief – everyone should have access to healthy and affordable food.
The charity joined Spring Impact’s Scale Accelerator in 2017 at a crucial point in its journey. It had just launched a pioneering intervention and was two years into a bold shift to redefine itself, despite a century-long heritage.
Whilst at an early stage its ‘Rose Vouchers for Fruit & Veg Project’ – providing low income families with vouchers that could be exchanged for fresh fruit and vegetables in local markets – was growing fast in four London boroughs and new pilots were starting up in England’s North West. Over 250 families had received Rose Vouchers through local Children’s Centres, benefitting 450 children.
However, as a small organisation tackling the widening issue of food poverty, it needed support to identify the most effective and sustainable way to do this.
We needed to sit back and look at our nascent formula and where we could take it next, and help to think through the model that would best help us to grow.”
Through Scale Accelerator, Alexandra Rose Charity underwent an intensive nine-month programme to evaluate its direction and gain the perspective and skills needed to scale its mission. A dedicated team of Spring Impact consultants worked with the team to develop an ambitious scale strategy and a model for implementation.
This support helped Alexandra Rose gain the headspace to get clearer on its ultimate goals, something which eventually helped to change its strategic direction and the unique model at its heart.
The new strategic direction was based on a clearer understanding that while food vouchers help solve the immediate issue of access to healthy food for low income families, in the long term it’s the continued success of healthy and sustainable local food economies that hold the key if this impact is to be sustained . Vouchers can be used to demonstrate demand in the local food economy, proving that a market for affordable healthy food exists, to then stimulate supply from local businesses. Alexandra Rose would focus on using vouchers to create this tipping point within local food economies first before spreading to new economies.
Jonathan Pauling explains the importance of disrupting the food economy:
“The UK will never tackle food poverty unless businesses can turn a profit from selling fresh fruit and vegetables to low income communities. At the moment it is, unfortunately, more profitable to sell convenient, processed food that sits on shelves or in freezers. Unless we can stimulate and support healthy food economies, we will always be reliant on the voluntary sector, and the voluntary sector will never solve the problem. Defining this as our Theory of Change on the Scale Accelerator was a really exciting moment when things started to come together. It has helped us with everything from our strategy, through to impressing funders.”
Scale Accelerator helped to transform how Alexandra Rose Charity approached scaling its innovation, turning its impressive ambition into a clear plan of action. For the charity this meant starting to think about scale differently, by taking a step back from growth at a surface level.
“While the scale of the food poverty across the UK is huge and we were keen to tackle it in all areas, we realised we needed to make a deeper impact first, before replicating”, said Jonathan.
Alongside this, it has continued to invest in new technology systems – such as an app to quickly reimburse local market traders for the fruit and veg they sold to Rose Voucher families.
While Alexandra Rose was undoubtedly on a strong growth trajectory before it joined Scale Accelerator, the model it took onboard has directly influenced its success in scaling its impact.
The charity is actively changing the lives of families through improving access to healthier food, reaching over 1000 families through vouchers distributed in 26 Children’s Centres in four London boroughs (Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Lambeth and Southwark), as well as in areas of Liverpool and Barnsley.
Alexandra Rose Charity recently successfully secured a new three-year grant for £1.25m from Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity to expand its Southwark pilot scheme over the next three years, and it is hoping to scale into more territories in the future.