Pregnant teenagers and families in low income households began receiving vouchers to spend on fresh fruit and vegetables this week, under a new scheme aimed at improving children’s health.
The scheme, Healthy Start, is intended to be more flexible than its predecessor, the Welfare Food Scheme, which was first brought in during the Second World War.
Under the new scheme, qualifying parents can spend their weekly vouchers – worth £2.80 each – on fresh fruit and vegetables as well as milk and infant formula. Around 20,000 retailers have already signed up to participate, including chemists, supermarkets, milkmen and food co-operatives.
The half a million households that previously benefited from the Welfare Food Scheme have been automatically moved over to Healthy Start. However, the new scheme has also been opened up to all pregnant women under the age of 18 in a bid to reduce the number of babies born with a low birth weight.
The Department of Health said health visitors and other health professionals working with pregnant women and families with children under the age of four now had an important role to play in promoting the scheme and supporting applications.