Change4Life's convenience store programme has been rolled out to stores in the east of England.

Under the scheme the Department of Health offers funding to 'beacon' stores in deprived areas with poor provision of fruit and veg. The government pays for up to half the cost of installing new chillers and stands so the stores can sell a prominently displayed and expanded range of fruit and veg.

DH also provides marketing and PoS, and a project co-ordinator works with the stores to offer advice on maximising profits, minimising waste and helping with a local marketing plan.

"Promoting the five-a-day message is a good thing, but we also need to make it easier for people to actually buy fruit and veg locally," said health secretary Andrew Lansley at a visit to a Norwich Spar retailer this week. "That is why this Change4Life ­campaign is such a great idea simple but highly ­effective."

C-stores in the North East, where the scheme was launched in November 2008, had seen fresh fruit and veg sales rise by an average of 40%, he said.

The scheme has subsequently been rolled out to the South West, West Midlands and East Midlands. It will be expanded to Yorkshire and the Humber and the North West in the new year and to London and the South East by the end of March, completing national coverage.

While there are 10 to 12 beacon stores in each region, which receive DH funding for new chillers, any store can apply to use the Change4Life branding and advice on working with the project. "What really makes a difference is the ­local involvement, engagement with the Primary Care Trust and schools, the local marketing plan, and having a fruit and veg champion in the store," said James Lowman, chief executive of the ACS. "We don't want to be just bunging out PoS packs. These stores can make a huge difference to the diet choices people make." The ACS, which ­coordinates the campaign with DH, said it hit 1,000 ­c-stores next year.