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Bury Market now a Healthy Start destination

New campaign to promote the use of Healthy Start cards at Bury Market means more low-income families can buy their fruit and vegetables from local stall holders.

Mayor Cllr Sandra Walmsley with stall holder. Credit: Bury Council

Mayor Cllr Sandra Walmsley with stall holder. Credit: Bury Council

Families in Greater Manchester can now use their Healthy Start card to buy fresh fruit and vegetables at award-winning Bury Market, thanks to a campaign led by Bury Food Partnership with funding from Sustainable Food Places.

The new initiative aims to help boost market footfall and improve access to healthy food among beneficiaries of the Healthy Start scheme, typically pregnant women and families from low-income backgrounds. Most Healthy Start card transactions take place in supermarkets but Bury Food Partnership wants to make the local market appealing to beneficiaries of this scheme, so more money stays in the local economy.

A cooking demonstration using fresh and low-cost ingredients from Bury market kicked off the new campaign. The Bury Market Team, Schools Catering, Public Health Team and Bury Adult Learning demonstrated how to cook well for less, with councillors Tamoor Tariq, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Nikki Frith and Mayor Cllr Sandra Walmsley also present.

Healthy Start and Bury Market will now be promoted across multiple platforms including social media, radio, banners (in the parks and alongside the market), and flyers will be distributed through the Bury Community Support Network (network of local food aid projects).

The Healthy Start scheme provides beneficiaries with a prepaid card to buy fruit, vegetables and milk. Payments are £4.25 a week for pregnant women and children 1-4 years old and £8.50 for infants under-1.

Activity at Bury Market

Bury Market is an award-winning market in the heart of the town centre. It regularly wins the national award ‘Britain’s Favourite Market’ and has recently won Best UK Market Attraction. It has over 350 stalls and 280 traders, including several fruit and vegetable stalls known for their affordable quality produce. Bury Market has been granted £20m of Levelling up funding by the Government for upgrades and refurbishment into a multi-functional space including a co-working space, community events, live performances and a café. Bury Food Partnership and others want to make it an inclusive place for everyone and Healthy Start promotion is part of the strategy to attract families on low incomes.

Through a review of work program within Bury Market, Healthy Start promotion and liaison has now been embedded into the Bury Market Business Development officer work plan. As a first step, the Business Development Officer has identified and liaised with several traders who will accept Health Start cards in exchange for their produce.

Increase access to healthy food and a move away from food banks

The campaign will further develop the food partnership’s activity aiming to increase access to affordable, local and quality produce. Prior to this campaign, Bury Food Partnership developed a Path to Pantry film and resources looking at the transition from food bank to food pantry. There are now eight pantries in Bury and Trust House is the first member in the Bury Community Support Network to accept Healthy Start payments at their own pantry. A group of visitors from Trust House Pantry toured the market in March, with the aim to highlight which traders accept payments, and to test with the families that their Healthy Start cards work. During the visit, a Healthy Start beneficiary said:

“As a mum of a nearly 3-year-old, the market is great for me. My daughter just can’t get enough fruit. She loves it. The market gives me a great choice as well as good quality, and now I know that I can use my Healthy Start she’ll be trying even more new fruits!”

RGRS Community Hub (at Bury Football Club) have also actively promoted Healthy Start with their families and use of Healthy Start at Bury Market. RGRS Community Hub is the most recent group to express their interest to move to the food pantry model, as the demand for food parcels they are receiving is not sustainable.

Support from Bury Council elected leaders

This campaign has created a huge amount of support from Bury Council’s elected members. Councillor Tamoor Tariq, cabinet member for Health and Wellbeing, said:

“We are passionate about nurturing access to affordable, local, quality produce via promoting the use of Healthy Start cards at Bury Market for the first time.  This supports local families and the local economy through being redeemed directly with small local businesses.” 

Cllr Nikki Frith spoke to full council in March 2023 championing how Healthy Start is one of our few nutritional safety nets as part of a motion that no Bury child should go hungry which was successfully passed. 

Next steps

The next steps are to include Healthy Start as part of the overall Bury Market marketing strategy, as well as inviting more visitors of food pantries and food banks to tour the market.  As traders begin to see more customers through Healthy Start, more traders will begin to accept and promote the scheme, which in turn will raise awareness for customers using the market increasing access and uptake of the initiative.

Healthy Start uptake in Bury was 62% in January 2023 and has since increased to 65% in April 2023. There is no single solution to increase the uptake of Healthy Start, however the food partnership continues to actively promote touch points with partners to promote Healthy Start via cost of living, early years, children’s and Bury Voluntary, Community & Faith Alliance networks. Greater Manchester Citizen Advice ran well attended Healthy Start webinars in each of the ten Greater Manchester localities. Alongside this, the GM Healthy Start Task Force are developing Healthy Start videos to support health care professionals to better understand the scheme, and to support families to sign up. 

Published Tuesday 30 May 2023

Sustainable Food Places: The Sustainable Food Places Network helps people and places share challenges, explore practical solutions and develop best practice on key food issues, so if you are working to drive positive food change or are interested in developing a programme, please do get in touch.

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