“Both adult and children’s health are significantly influenced by the environments that they move through every day.”
Healthy High Streets challenge
Clients: Guy's & St. Thomas' charity and Healthy London Partnership
In partnership with: Battersea Power Station Foundation, Haringey, Southwark and Lambeth Councils
Role: Design lead
High street shops take on the challenge to make healthy eating easier for children and families
The Healthy High Streets challenge aimed to find and test solutions to improve the high street food environment, as a way to tackle childhood obesity. It did this by inviting ideas from people who trade on and use three high streets in London through a hyper-local challenge prize. We focused on areas in Southwark, Lambeth and Haringey where childhood obesity is particularly high and where there's a high density of fast food outlets. We wanted to learn about these 3 things; how to shift behaviour and encourage healthier eating on the high street, how to engage businesses in that challenge, and the methodology of using a challenge prize to incentivise engagement, action and partnerships around a public health aim.
We ended up with successful initiatives from high streets businesses and entrepreneurs that are making a real difference in these areas today.
Childhood obesity is one of the biggest challenges we're facing in the city today. A lot of factors drive this, but one of the significant is is the food environment on high streets. Foods from fast food outlets and restaurants tend to be more energy-dense than the equivalent foods prepared at home, and take-aways are of particular concern. Public Health England and others have highlighted that outlets selling fast food have clustered in areas of deprivation, and that the density of fast food and other unhealthy outlets is linked to high levels of child obesity. Whilst central London has seen a growth in healthier fast food outlets and restaurants, this trend has not yet spread to greater London and in particular not to poorer areas.
"Almost a quarter of children who start primary school (4-5 yrs) in London are obese; this increases to over a third when they leave primary school (10-11 yrs)" NHS Digital National Child Measurement Programme England, 2016/17 School Year
“I always go to the same chicken shop. It’s where my mum drops me off for school. I go there with my friends.” Boy, 14 years old
We used a range of approaches to engage local businesses and residents with the dual aim of: gathering insights about local experiences about both running businesses and making food choices on the high street, and spreading the word about the challenge. We set up street stalls at local markets, built relationships with high street shops, engaged local connecters, ran a social media campaign in Lambeth, and a food week in Southwark where a number of small food outlets provided a special offer on a healthier menu item for a week to help launch the challenge.
We ran ideas events in the 3 areas to give people the chance to find out what we had heard from local residents about healthy food on the high street, learn from examples of ideas from elsewhere, support idea development and help them to submit their idea.
The best ideas were given up to £2,000 to try them out for nine weeks. They were offered expert support to help develop and test the ideas to find out how successful they could be, as well as promotion for their ideas. In Southwark we decided that five local entrepreneurs should be supported as a group and created a flexible six-month incubator programme to help them flesh out their early-stage ideas.
Tasters chicken shop on West Green Road, Haringey is offering a healthier menu which soon became more popular than the original fried chicken options.
“The regular, loyal customers know what they want. It will take time to shift behaviour, but what will happen in the future? Sales of the grilled chicken will continue to grow.” Shahid, owner
Oasis Play, a local youth charity in Lambeth, developed a new healthy menu together with children and young people.
In Southwark, 5 entrepreneurs were supported to make their ideas reality:
Eat fit, Drink fit, Be fit; a programme for 13-18 year olds that aims to help them to develop stronger awareness of healthy behaviours.
East Street Cooking Club; bringing isolated parents together around cooking and healthy recipes, using multicultural recipes as a way to connect and build relationships in the community, as well as providing a good experience for people at local events.
Yipao Street Food; a young Colombian street food business offering healthier street food
Nika’s Kitchen; a series of healthy eating, creative after school workshops for primary aged children and their parents/carers.
Rudy’s Kitchen; great- tasting, healthy and affordable food that can be enjoyed in a sociable setting as well as easily recreated at home.