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Healthy Start: a new welfare food scheme

  • Last modified date:
    16 April 2009
healthy start logo

The new Healthy Start scheme will help low income families by providing vouchers for free milk, fresh fruit and vegetables to children and pregnant women. The scheme also encourages earlier and closer contact with health professionals who can give advice on pregnancy, breastfeeding and healthy eating.

Healthy Start replaces the Welfare Food Scheme, introduced during World War II in response to food shortages. It builds on recommendations made by the Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA), as well as feedback received during two public consultation exercises and extensive discussions with health professionals, retailers, and organisations working with disadvantaged women and families.

Woman with child

The new vouchers will be worth £2.80 each. Qualifying pregnant women and children between one and four will get one voucher every week, while children under a year old will receive two vouchers a week.

Vouchers can be spent at participating retailers, including small businesses, milkmen, supermarkets and chemists. Health professionals will play an important role supporting applications for Healthy Start and providing advice on healthy eating and breastfeeding.

An equality impact assessment for Healthy Start, covering policy development, consultation, and implementation was published on 17 July 2008.

Man with two children

In Devon and Cornwall, where the scheme has been running since 28 November 2005, evaluation suggests that it has been a success. Many families welcomed the new flexibility that Healthy Start vouchers offer. Retailers found the process of registration and claiming payment to be simple and straightforward. Health professionals understood how the scheme worked and were able to advise their clients appropriately.

The evaluation also showed that retailers were eager to get involved. Already there are more shops and supermarkets involved than for the Welfare Food Scheme, and more and gtting involved daily. Healthy Start is more convenient for those who receive the vouchers, as well as offering more choice.

The summary documents for Healthy Start Phase 1:

woman and girl with apple

For more information on how Healthy Start has developed:

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