We’re part of an innovative pilot in east Kent to help target obesity and unemployment.

ASPIRE – adding to Social capital and individual Potential In disadvantaged Regions – brings together 14 organisations from across south England and northern France to tackle these two issues.

This €10 million Interreg VA Channel project has been awarded more than €7 million by the European Regional Development Fund; the project runs until February 2023.

The challenge to be tackled by ASPIRE is reflected in local statistics and results from a Gallup poll which reveal the longer a person is unemployed, the higher the rates of obesity. Figures reveal that rates reach up to 32.7 per cent after a year or more of unemployment.

According to a UN report one quarter of British adults are obese with levels having more than trebled in the past 30 years. 63.1 per cent of people in south east England and 62.7 per cent in south west England are overweight.

In France, the national unemployment rate is around 10 per cent but in the Hauts-de-France region it is nearly 13 per cent. Obesity rates in that region exceeded 20 per cent in 2016, six percentage points above the French average.

It’s clear to see that a worryingly high proportion of people are considered as being obese and overweight in these two areas.

While eating healthily can often seem unachievable on a budget, knowledge of how to grow and prepare fresh fruit and vegetables can make all the difference.

ASPIRE will give obese/overweight and/or unemployed people the tools they need to make healthier lifestyle choices and improve their chances of employment.

The project will encourage a grow-your-own, eat-your-own, sell-your-own ethos and will be available at seven sites across the two areas.

Interreg FCE is an EU programme set up to foster economic development in the south of the UK and north of France by funding innovative projects which have a sustainable cross-border benefit in the Programme’s eligible regions.