The Queen of Greens Launches New Expanded Route

The Queen of Greens Bus – a mobile greengrocer that brings affordable fresh fruit and vegetables to communities across Liverpool and Knowsley – has increased its route to 40 stops.

Run by Feeding Liverpool and Alchemic Kitchen, the Queen of Greens has been a huge success since its launch in late 2022, aiming to boost access to healthy food and help tackle health inequalities.

Initially visiting 29 stops each week, the bus provides people with a better opportunity to shop for nutritious food closer to their home or workplace. Indeed, the route stops at schools, health centres and community centres that are located in neighbourhoods classed as ‘food deserts’; these are areas whose residents have to travel more than a kilometre or walk a significant distance in order to reach a supermarket providing produce.

Lucy Antal, Senior Project Manager at Feedback Global:

“You might not have the money to get a supermarket delivery because there is usually a minimum spend. The public transport option might not be suitable, you might not have access to a car, so you are having to use part of your household budget to spend on taxis.”

By making it easier for people to access healthier food, the bus is serving to reduce health inequalities and improve both the nutrition and life chances of those living in communities where food insecurity and barriers to food access have been identified.

Only 1 in 2 adults in Liverpool eat the recommended 5 fruit and vegetables each day – a figure that drops to 12% among 11-18 year olds. An estimated third of adults in Liverpool are also food insecure, which means that food is a source of worry, frustration or stress for them. Both Everton and Kirkby are among the 10 most economically deprived food deserts in England, with 77% of Knowsley also being considered a food desert.

The bus’s partners, therefore, have worked with Liverpool City Council, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, The Life Rooms, Liverpool and Sefton Health Partnership, Community Health Partnerships, Torus Foundation, Knowsley social housing provider Livv Housing Group and the Alexandra Rose Charity to ensure the route reaches a wide community audience.

The buses have a fixed weekly schedule and are operated on a day-to-day basis by greengrocer Paul Flannery, who has been a part of the project since its inception. Paul visits Liverpool’s wholesale market in the early hours each morning and stocks the bus for the day, priding himself on offering competitive prices and selling the produce loose in order to cut down on both waste and packaging. Aside from selling, Paul also uses his 40 years of experience in the fruit and veg business to offer cooking tips and encourage shoppers to discover different food varieties.

Elena Vacca, Project Manager at Feeding Liverpool:

“Paul is great with customers. If they get on the bus and they have never tried a particular fruit or vegetable before, he will open it up and let them have a taste.”

Paul Flannery, Greengrocer:

You get a lot of people who know about the bus, look forward to coming to the bus, and when they come here they meet other people who are in the same situation as themselves. Eventually, they’ll say: ‘What’s that?’ I’ll say: ‘It’s a butternut squash and this is how you cook it.’ They’ll come back the next week and say: ‘That was lovely that.’ Then some people will get on the bus who don’t know each other and they’ll say: ‘I had that last week. If I was you, I’d cook it this way.’ It’s about people getting to know each other, it’s just to get people to eat healthy. That’s what I’m passionate about.”

Aside from carrying recipe cards on the bus with healthy ideas, Feeding Liverpool and Feedback Global also run cookery courses to help people make meals on a budget.

A significant proportion of customers who use the bus receive government Healthy Start Cards and/or Alexandra Rose Charity vouchers – all of which can be used to pay onboard.

A lot of customers at the primary schools, children centres and hospitals that the bus stops at have young children and appreciate that the bus allows them to buy items that would otherwise be too expensive to get, such as berries.

Clare, a mother who is a customer at the Everton Children’s Centre stop:

“[The produce] lasts a lot longer than it does in the supermarkets and that is why I look forward to coming here.”

Charlotte, another mother who is a customer at the Everton Children’s Centre stop:

“It means – especially when you have a young child – that you don’t have to go out to the shops, because it is not easy navigating little children with everything that you can see there.”

The scheme has already made a huge difference, not just to those who are struggling, but to anyone who appreciates the convenience of having a greengrocers on their doorstep.

Elena Vacca:

“Anyone can get on our bus – there are no restrictions about who can use it – so although we do reach a lot of families, we also stop off at places where staff and teachers use it too. We also partnered with the University of Liverpool on its ‘Feel Good February’ event to deliver fruit and veg bags for its students and we’re planning to add a stop outside the university when we expand. It’s about making healtheir fresh food eating more available, both physically and financially, because we feel that everyone deserves to have access to good food and the response we’ve had has been fantastic.”

The key supporters and funders of the Queen of Greens are Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool City Council, Torus Foundation and Life Rooms. New funding means that the service will not only be able to add additional stops – going into areas including Norris Green, Vauxhall and Croxteth – but that a second bus and greengrocer can be acquired in order to extend the current timetable.

Elena Vacca:

At the moment, we can only run until about 1:30pm because Paul starts at 5am but, with the extra funding, we can now launch in the afternoon so that when families are picking up their kids from school we can stop there and they can get what they need at the same time.”

Paul Flannery:

“It’s all about affordability and giving people what they want. That’s how I look at it. If you can afford a certain amount of stuff to feed your family at an affordable price, then I’m happy with that.”

The new route will launch from Monday 25th March (excluding Bank Holidays).

Read more about the Queen of Greens Bus expansion in this article by The Guide Liverpool and in this BBC News piece.

Follow the Queen of Greens Bus on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

(Photo credits to Rob Battersby)