Get help to buy fruit, veg and milk with Healthy Start vouchers

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Every child deserves to have the best start in life, and we are proud to support the Government’s Healthy Start vouchers scheme in our stores.

Our Co-op has working with communities across East Anglia to tackle the issue of food justice. We joined Marcus Rashford’s Child Food Poverty Taskforce when it formed last year, and we’ve been enhancing the value of Healthy Start vouchers by £1.15, from £3.10 to £4.25, in our stores since September 2020.

Last month, the Government increased the value of Healthy Start vouchers from £3.10 to £4.25 and we made the decision to further, topping them up to £5. This was an important step from the Government but, research from the Co-operative Party shows that nearly half of vouchers across the UK are going unclaimed.

Locally and nationally, action is being taken to encourage those who are eligible to make use of the vouchers.

The Co-operative Party is leading a campaign to increase uptake of the vouchers and is urging the Government to do more to promote the scheme and make sure the vouchers reach the families who need them.

Last month, the party launched a new tool called a Food Justice Finder. You can use this tool to find out how much low-income families in your area are missing out on – and what you can do to help.

In Suffolk, take up of the vouchers has now dropped from 69% in 2015 to below the 51% national take-up rate. Suffolk’s Labour group councillors have joined the Co-operative Party’s national campaign and are working to raise awareness of the scheme.

As well as increasing the value of Healthy Start vouchers in our stores we want to do all that we can to encourage our communities to make use of this scheme.

We believe that a big part of this is raising awareness of what the vouchers are, who can claim them and how and where they can be used, so we’ve put together a summary below. Please share this with anyone you think may find it useful.

What are Healthy Start vouchers?

Healthy Start vouchers are a government scheme that gives some extra support to pregnant women and families on lower incomes so that they can buy healthy foods.

The vouchers can be used to buy:

  • Fruit and vegetables (fresh, frozen or tinned)
  • Pulses (fresh, dried or tinned)
  • Plain cow’s milk
  • Infant formula

You can also claim Healthy Start vitamins through the scheme.

Who is eligible?

You can claim Healthy Start vouchers if you are at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old.

To be eligible, you must also receive one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit with a family income of £16,190 or less per year
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit with 'take home pay' of £408 or less per month for the family

You also qualify if you are under 18 and pregnant, even if you don’t get any of the above benefits.

How do I apply?

To apply for the Healthy Start scheme, you can download a paper application form from the Healthy Start website, or you can request one from your GP or Midwife. Alternatively, you can request one from the Healthy Start helpline on 0345 607 6823.

You should get your vouchers within two weeks of your application being approved. After that, vouchers are sent out every four weeks.

You can read more about how to apply for Healthy Start vouchers on the NHS website.

Where and how can they be spent?

You can spend your vouchers at any East of England Co-op, and we will top them up to £5. Just present your vouchers at the till when paying for eligible healthy food items and they will be automatically topped up to £5. Find your nearest East of England Co-op.

There are also lots of other shops (including corner shops, supermarkets, greengrocers and pharmacies) in our region and across the UK where you can spend your vouchers.