Norwich stallholders help to spread the five-a-day message

Market traders in Norwich are to become healthy-eating ambassadors as part of a pilot project to ensure more people get their five-a-day.

Mike and Debs Read, who run a fruit and vegetables stall in the city with their son Brendan, are one of 11 traders across the East of England involved in the NHS's Change4Life market stalls project.

The scheme hopes to use the traders' position at the heart of their community to promote the importance of healthy eating and encourage customers to increase their intake of apples, pears, carrots and sprouts.

Each stallholder will be provided with a free starter kit of Change4Life materials which can be used as incentives to boost their fruit and vegetables sales.

Brendan, Mr and Mrs Read's son, said buying produce from a market stall was a great way to kickstart a healthier lifestyle.

'Shopping at the market means you can get really fresh fruit and veg with service and advice you won't get elsewhere,' he said. 'We use local produce wherever possible and you can buy in small quantities which means you don't have to worry about waste. We hope we can help more people get their five-a-day and spread the Change4Life messages.'

The initiative is the first of its kind in the country and launches this month.

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Market stalls in Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Thetford, Aylsham, Wymondham, Fakenham, Attleborough and Diss are also among those set to take part in the pilot.

Alex Lynch, NHS Norfolk's Change4Life co-ordinator, said: 'These traders are at the heart of the community and so are perfectly placed to help people make healthier choices when they're shopping. We hope they'll be ambassadors for Change4Life's healthy lifestyle advice.'

Eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day has been found to reduce the risk of a number of illnesses including heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

But at the moment only about a quarter of adults in England are thought to be getting their five-a-day.

Change4Life is a nationwide NHS initiative which aims to help everyone, and particularly children, eat well, move more and live longer.