The welfare food scheme for pregnant women, mothers and young
children with low incomes should be more generous, include a wider
range of food and be available from a wider range of outlets, said
respondents to a government consultation on reform of the
But it was important to be clear exactly what foods would be
included, they said.
The government is proposing a major reform of the scheme as part
of the NHS Plan. The scheme was introduced as a universal provision
in 1940 but is now means-tested. A scientific review concluded that
it did not meet the wider nutritional needs of pregnant women,
nursing mothers and young children. It could act as a disincentive
to breastfeeding by offering free infant formula.
The proposed changes include replacing the vouchers for milk,
and milk powder with a voucher for “healthy” foods. The new scheme,
called Healthy Start, is expected to be introduced in 2004.