We meet the people behind a new scheme giving hundreds of children access to fresh fruit and vegetables in Glasgow and one of the families benefiting from it. 

KAREN Turpie stops for a second and chews on the words. 

“I am forever grateful for it,” the mother-of-five eventually settles on, looking across her living room and towards her guest. “You’ve not just made a difference to me. You’ve made a difference to all of us.“ 

It’s Thursday morning in Dalmarnock and in a house hidden away at the end of a cul-de-sac under the watchful eye of Celtic Park she’s speaking to David Cairns for the first time. 

The “it” Karen, a shop assistant, is grateful for is quite simple: fruit and vegetables. 

Her family is one of nearly 60 in the city benefiting from a new scheme brought to the East End by David which hands out vouchers to locals to exchange for free boxes of the good stuff and a delivery has just arrived when she sits down to speak with him and the Glasgow Times

“I don’t feel guilty anymore,” she says, holding her youngest son Alexander, 2, in her arms as he bites into an apple. “Having to sacrifice something just to get them fruit was hard. 

Glasgow Times: Karen and her son Alexander Karen and her son Alexander

“The amount we get, I wouldn’t be able to guarantee before. It is really good quality stuff.

“It is a massive help.” 

As she speaks, her other kids – Caiden, 10, Reigan, 9, and Ava, 6 – are laughing in the kitchen, tucking into the day’s delivery. 

“We’ve been getting it since before Christmas,” the 33-year-old, who is also mum to 13-year-old Caitlyn and says home-schooling has been “hard”, adds. “They love fruit and veg. They are not picky eaters, which is so nice.

“They love it. I sometimes never get to see any of it!

“It’s healthier for them than sweeties and definitely means less expensive trips to the dentist.

“I had to buy frozen vegetables. We just couldn’t afford to get it fresh. 

“Every week that box comes in and you can see the smiles on their faces. They’re usually desperate to get the fruit even before I’ve had a chance to put it down!” 

Karen’s kids are just some of the hundreds who, each week, find themselves tucking into fresh fruit and vegetables courtesy of the initiative. Launched last September in the city, it sees families in need identified and given Rose Vouchers – from the Alexander Rose Charity – and is run alongside Glasgow City Council, West of Scotland Housing Association, Thriving Places, Church House Bridgeton, and Firm Banana.

But, it all came from David’s own experiences of poverty.

“I got involved in this because about ten years ago I became homeless and was living in hostels,” the project coordinator, 56, says. “It was difficult being homeless and I found it difficult going to soup kitchens or asking for free food.

Glasgow Times: David Cairns is the coordinator behind the scheme David Cairns is the coordinator behind the scheme

“There are lots of groups talking about poverty but a lot of them just go to meetings and don’t do anything.” 

Traditionally, the Rose Vouchers have been used in exchange for food at markets.

However, unlike in, say, London, where these are plentiful, David quickly realised they would need to adapt to Glasgow’s needs. 

That’s where Bridgeton delivery company Firm Banana came in and each week they supply around £500 worth of produce to homes across the East End. 

“It has made such a difference to the community,” owner Gerald Connor says a little earlier when he and daughter Wallis drop off the box. “People look forward to us coming.

Glasgow Times: Wallis and Gerald Connor from Firm Banana Wallis and Gerald Connor from Firm Banana

“It is making a positive change to people and getting them into better habits.” 

For David, that is key and with £150,000 in funding guaranteed for three years he hopes to roll out the scheme to more communities in Glasgow.  

“The hope is to work with the likes of Thriving Places to put on cooking classes when it is safe to do so,” the West End man adds. “I got a lot of help when I was really struggling and I wanted to do something.

“We want to get young children in the habits of eating it regularly and rather than it being a one-off or a treat it’s something they have naturally.”

Praise for new project 

Charity campaigners have hailed a scheme giving hundreds of children access to free fruit and vegetables. 

The Rose Vouchers initiative was launched in the East End just last year and is going from strength-to-strength. 

It sees the Alexander Rose Charity work alongside Glasgow City Council, West of Scotland Housing Association, Thriving Places, Church House Bridgeton, and Firm Banana.

Jonathan Pauling, CEO Alexandra Rose Charity, said: “We’re thrilled that the project is now up and running in Glasgow and supporting families at this particularly difficult time. 

“We know access to healthy food is a daily struggle for many families and this has only been made more difficult by the pandemic. 

“We hope the project can help address some of these challenges.” 

Meabh Bradley, community connector at Thriving Places, said: “The project has provided the opportunity to identify families who may benefit from further support and services and engage with other local initiatives.  

Glasgow Times:

“Lots of positive feedback has been received from families in receipt of the fresh food boxes and the project is a clear example of partnership working, connecting organisations to help reduce child poverty and food poverty in the East End of Glasgow.” 

Calton councillor Jen Layden, who has supported the project, said: “This will deliver on our shared aim of providing nutritious food with dignity.  

“I am sure that this will be of great support for those families in receipt of the vouchers during this particularly challenging time.” 

If you live in Parkhead, Dalmarnock or Camlachie area, please contact the Thriving Places PDC team to see how you can benefit from the Rose Voucher Scheme or become involved in the project.   

Yvonne.Liddell@westscot.co.uk  079 8519 4495