A total of 18 corner shops across the West Midlands are set to take part in a pilot scheme aimed at helping tackle the UK’s obesity crisis.

The participating stores have all overhauled their fruit and veg offer as part of the Government’s Change4Life initiative that saw sales increase by almost 50 per cent when the scheme was piloted in the North-east.

As part of the project, the shops will also display Change4Life posters and signs as well as appointing a member of staff to champion fresh fruit and veg.

Rav Garcha, who has a number of convenience stores across the West Midlands, said the scheme was already showing signs of success.

He said: “Until now we’ve been reluctant to sell fresh fruit and veg in our shops mainly because of the waste it produces, but it is desperately needed in both of our areas - particularly in our Shrewsbury store.

“We pride ourselves on being a one-stop shop so this new scheme makes real business sense for us.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the interest we have had from customers when they have seen the clearings in the shops made for the fresh produce. This has inspired us to set up our own fruit and veg section in our Broadway shop in Worcestershire.”

Public health minister, Gillian Merron, said: “It’s not always easy to get your five a day – but we’re going to help the local shop stock and keep fresh fruit and veg, which will make it easier for shoppers to choose healthy options.

“This is good news for everyone – it will boost the health of local people and the local shops.”

Karen Saunders of the Department of Health in the West Midlands, said: “Here in the West Midlands we have the joint highest rate of obesity in the UK for adult women and the second highest rate of obesity for men so we are delighted that this initiative has come to the region.

“We are confident that we will have the same success as in north east, encouraging more people to eat fresh fruit and vegetables. This approach has been proven to change people’s habits and promote a healthier lifestyle.”

A trial run of the programme began with twelve shops in the north east last November and has been an overwhelming success. Over twelve months, an additional 100 shops joined the programme and sales of fresh fruit and veg increased on average by 47 per cent, with about a third of shoppers saying they will buy more fruit and veg from their local store in future.

The first phase will see 60 stores in the West and East Midlands and south west, starting with an improved range of fruit and vegetables using the Change4Life branding.

A further 32 stores have received support from the local regional health authority to allow them to display the branding and increase the range available. Out of these 32, eight are in the West Midlands and have received funding from the Birmingham Primary Care Trusts.