Sustain Good Food Enterprise Connecting Community Food Enterprises Case studies

Connecting Community Food Enterprises Case Study: Queen of Greens

Queen of Greens mobile grocer. Credit: Queen of Greens

Queen of Greens mobile grocer. Credit: Queen of Greens

Queen of Greens is a mobile greengrocer that travels around Liverpool and Knowsley, visiting locations chosen by the community where fruit and vegetables are not easily available. These food deserts and food swamps were identified by the Good Food Plan from Feeding Liverpool, and the map of Knowsley food sources researched for Feedback by a postgraduate.


Business Model

Queen of Greens is registered as Alchemic Kitchen CIC, which runs as a social enterprise, employing two greengrocers/drivers. It is managed by a volunteer board of directors. The two buses go out Monday to Friday, following a timetable which is accessed here and via Feeding Liverpool. Leaflets and posters are also printed and available at the stops and on the bus.

Additional services are available with orders taken for delivery to organisations running events such as the University of Liverpool’s Fresher Week and ‘Feel Good February’ or supporting households around the school holidays. The buses accept cash, cards, Healthy Start and Alexandra Rose Vouchers, and has also worked directly with social landlords to offer tenants subsidised fruit and vegetables in housing estates in identified food deserts.

Users of the buses tend to be geographical in nature, from a wide spread of ages and circumstances, with several young families accessing the service due to the stops at children’s centres. The Queen of Greens is for everyone. This is emphasised to remove any stigma and encourage a range of income so that the business is not solely reliant on one form of support e.g. Alexandra Rose vouchers.

The Queen of Greens employs two greengrocers/ drivers who are responsible for purchasing at the wholesale market, loading the van, and working with customers at the stops. They also liaise with the staff at the various stops which are children’s centres, medical hubs and schools. They are supported by a team of five volunteer directors who manage the day to day admin and finances, liaise with funders and organise social media and publicity for the service.

Alchemic Kitchen CIC took over the running of the greengrocer mobile buses in the autumn of 2023. Prior to that, Feedback and Feeding Liverpool had worked in partnership to raise capital funding to purchase and convert the buses and had leased them at a peppercorn rent to another retailer. That retailer did not wish to carry on with the running of a mobile service, so the decision was made to set up a stand-alone social enterprise to manage it. Both Feedback and Feeding Liverpool continue to advise and support the Alchemic Kitchen CIC and have directors on the board.

The buses are registered as a food business with the Environmental Health team at the City Council. The directors work with the local voluntary body LCVS to manage payroll and pensions and the financial director of Feedback is also on the board to ensure financial compliance and accounting. Both greengrocers have been subject to DBS checks.

“Lovely produce and friendly staff, nothing is ever too much.”

Queen of Greens overlooking Liverpool. Credit: Queen of Greens


Impact on the community

During 2023 there were 13,720 visits to the Queen of Greens. Queen of Greens provides people with a reliable service and access to fresh fruit, vegetables, and eggs at market stall prices across areas of Liverpool and Knowsley where fresh food is not readily available. This helps people to improve their diet, with benefits to physical and mental health.

Efforts are taken to ensure the buses are an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome, helping people feel confident to access the service and keep coming back. Queen of Greens recognise that food is a gateway to other support, and by working with social landlords, children’s centres, public health and schools, Queen of Greens customers can access additional help and activities available in those spaces, including in areas such as wellbeing and financial support.

Healthy Start uptake has historically been low in the areas Queen of Greens operates, partially to do with difficulty accessing retailers that accept Healthy Start and provide the items that are covered by the scheme (fruit, vegetables, pulses, milk and infant formula). By working with Feeding Liverpool, who have been campaigning to raise awareness about Healthy Start, the Queen of Greens is able to accept Healthy Start payment and promotes this in publicity about the service.

On average 250 households a week are supported through the Alexandra Rose Vouchers with fresh fruit and vegetables, generally receiving £6 to £8 of produce.

The extension to the service from the addition of the second bus is allowing Queen of Greens to go into North Liverpool and support communities in Everton and Anfield, which previously had limited options for purchasing fruit and vegetables.


“The greengrocers are very good, they show respect when speaking to customers. “

“Paul is excellent at his job. He listens to his customers and brings specific produce if requested.“


Food supply and logistics

The Queen of Greens offers a wide range of fresh fruit, vegetables, and eggs, purchased in the majority from the Wholesale Market in Fazakerley and where possible direct from local farmers. Priority is given to local produce such as tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, greens and eggs. Seasonality is important as it means the costs are kept lower, as well as being more planet-friendly and allowing more local options.

Queen of Greens can be agile, providing specific items for communities such as ripe tomatoes by the box for the Yemeni and Somali householders, or sacks of potatoes for larger families. Customers can contact the greengrocers to place orders.

Coordinating and managing the timetables for the buses is a significant task, which is led by colleagues from Feedback and Feeding Liverpool. They monitor the footfall and expenditure at the different stops, adjusting as needed. Currently a survey is being carried out in partnership with Feeding Liverpool and a more in depth study is planned from March with a community researcher from Feedback, who will travel with the buses to different stops to collect both quantitative and qualitative evidence on the efficacy of the service.


Funding and opportunities for social investment

As a social enterprise that prides itself on paying more than the Real Living Wage, and ensures suppliers are paid promptly, cash flow can be tricky. So far, the grants and support given by funders enabled them to get set up and running, but they are always keeping an eye on income and expenditure which can fluctuate. It is the intention of Alchemic Kitchen CIC to be fiscally solvent and less reliable on grant support, but this may take additional investment in the form of a third bus. Repairs are costly and if a bus needs to come off the road, that immediately impacts the income. They have applied for contracts and tenders to supply other organisations with produce to bolster income.

Alchemic Kitchen CIC has accessed additional investment and support via the Household Support Fund through the council and Feeding Liverpool to support people seeking asylum who are without recourse to public funding to shop on the bus.  Queen of Greens are also supported by the social landlords Livv Housing, Torus and latterly Riverside Homes, providing social investment to support the buses and enable their tenants to benefit from the service with vouchers to spend on the bus. Alder Hey Hospital provided a grant to expand the service by purchasing a second bus, doubling the capacity of the service and enabling different times and locations for the service to stop at.



Cost monthly











The main challenges to running the project are the requirements to cover core costs e.g. van running costs, repairs, staff salaries, and the increased demand for their support. Produce costs are currently very high and fluctuate regularly, making it difficult to regulate costs and forecast expenditure vs income, balancing with affordability for customers. Queen of Greens are also very reliant on the unpaid work of the directors to manage the running of the business and logistics.


Future plans and aspirations

The Queen of Greens team hope to fundraise to cover the staffing costs of an administrator/ coordinator, to relieve the burden of this task on others. This would support them to build their capacity and bring on more buses.

They plan to consolidate the existing offer, making sure that the current stops are working and well publicised, and look at expansion into other areas – there have been enquiries about running a van in St Helens and Bootle (Sefton area), but currently they don’t have capacity for this.

They are also focussing on developing additional sources of income and new buyers, as at present they are reliant on Alexandra Rose, and also want to expand the amount of organic produce they are trading.


Top tips for others starting or running similar enterprises

  1. It takes much longer to get a CIC set up than you might think.
  2. Buses are expensive to repair so build a fighting fund for this as you go.
  3. Don’t be afraid to say no. Remain true to your values and don’t let people’s perceptions based on supermarket prices mean they try to bargain you down for your services. Paying staff and suppliers fairly is important.

The Queen of Greens team. Credit: Queen of Greens

Feedback with Feeding Liverpool

Feedback is a charity that focuses on sustainable food systems, they believe that securing nutritious, delicious food for all can and should go hand and hand with regenerating our planet. They run a Merseyside based project – Alchemic Kitchen – who advocate for access and education around sustainable food for all. They work closely with the food partnership Feeding Liverpool.

Good Food Enterprise: Working to provide food that is good for people and the planet, and support local production playing a part in community beyond trading.

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