Independent retailers are supplying 1,309 areas snubbed by supermarkets with healthy, fresh and affordable produce.

New research by the Social Market Foundation and commissioned by Kellogg’s ignored the contributions made by independent convenience stores, but shop owners have defended their role in giving locals access to healthy goods.

The research claimed there are 1,309 ‘food deserts’ in the UK – areas with fewer than two supermarkets and supermarket- owned convenience stores within 500m. It said their absence left residents with low access to healthy food.

However, analysis by RN found that listed ‘food deserts’ had an average of more than 10 independent convenience stores within a mile radius.

Samantha Coldbeck manages a Premier in Hull – the worst food desert according to the research.  She told RN: “These reports are doing a massive injustice to independent retailers because they ignore those who do provide healthy food and initiatives that aren’t provided by the supermarkets. 

“We offer fruit and vegetables at competitive prices compared with supermarkets, and I can name at least 10 other independent retailers near me doing the same. 

“We also accept Healthy Start vouchers, which give pregnant women discounts on products such as fresh milk.”

Terry Caton, who runs a Londis in Chesterfield, added: “It’s good having this research, but my question is what retailers need to do to fill these gaps.

“Retailers work hard to cater to health-conscious customers. I’ve moved my produce to the store front and added a gluten-free section. There’s still a demand for products such as full-sugar soft drinks and I have a varied range to meet these needs.” 

The research said the UK’s biggest food deserts include Marfleet in Kingston upon Hull, Hartcliffe and Withywood in Bristol, Hattersley in Tameside, and Seaforth in Sefton.

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