Better health starts with a healthy diet full of fruit, vegetables and pulses, and one way to ensure health for life is to start from the beginning, offering our children the best options for their food. The Healthy Start Scheme is a project helping low-income families access food and milk for their children across the UK. Families get a Healthy Start card that can be used to make healthy food purchases in-store. Thousands of people may be eligible but are yet to claim, including people across Sheffield. We want to highlight this help and ensure everyone in our city gets the resources they deserve to help feed their families.
What is the Healthy Start Scheme?
Healthy Start is a food assistance programme in the UK that was launched in 2006. It aims to provide a nutritional safety net and enable low-income families to access a healthier diet through food vouchers. If you’re more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4, you may be entitled to get help. You need to be claiming certain benefits to qualify, but the Healthy Start scheme can be used to buy:
- Plain liquid cow’s milk.
- Fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetables.
- Fresh, dried, and tinned pulses such as beans or lentils.
- Infant formula milk based on cow’s milk.
You can also use your card to collect:
- Healthy Start vitamins – these support you during pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Vitamin drops for babies and young children – these are suitable from birth to 4 years old
If you are eligible, you’ll get money added to your Healthy Start card every 4 weeks, with different amounts dependent on whether you are currently pregnant and/or the age of your child. You can use the Healthy Start card just like a debit or credit card in most UK stores.
Benefits of a Better Start
A healthy diet is essential to a healthy lifestyle at any time but is especially vital if you’re pregnant. Eating healthily during pregnancy will help your baby develop and grow, make you feel better, and help manage other pregnancy symptoms. There is no need to eat for two, but eating plenty of fruit and vegetables will give you all the vitamins and minerals you need, as well as fibre, which helps digestion and can help prevent constipation.
When the baby is born, they need plenty of nutrition to continue to develop their brain and grow their little body. If a mum is breastfeeding, ensuring she gets all the proper nutrition from her diet is vital so she can pass on the benefits to the baby. For our bottle-feeding families, formula is essential for babies’ development, so it’s excellent that formula is part of the Healthy Start scheme. Since the project runs up to the age of 4, parents can access the best start for their children with free fruit, vegetables, pulses and milk. Research shows that children who eat more fruit and veg have better physical, mental and dental health, plus better school results.
Am I Eligible and How to Apply?
If you’re more than 10 weeks pregnant or have at least one child under 4 years old, you may be eligible for the Healthy Start Scheme, depending on the benefits you are currently entitled to.
If you get Universal Credit, you can apply online if your family’s monthly ‘take-home pay’ is £408 or less from employment.
If you get Child Tax Credit, you may be eligible if your family’s annual income is £16,190 or less and you do not get Working Tax Credit.
You may also be eligible if you receive Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Pension Credit (including the child addition).
You may also be eligible if you are under 18 years old and not getting any benefits or are getting income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Suppose you’re not a British citizen, but your child is. In that case, you might be eligible for Healthy Start depending on your immigration status and if the following is true: you have at least 1 British child under 4 years old, your family earns £408 or less per month after tax, and you cannot claim ‘public funds’.
Depending on your eligibility, you may need to apply online, via email or telephone. Visit https://www.healthystart.nhs.uk/ for more information.
Start Well Sheffield
Healthy starts are not just about our food but also about exercising, good mental health and excellent relationships with our family, friends and community. Sheffield City Council has created the Start Well Sheffield Family Programme to help with just that. This scheme is for parents and carers with children under 5 years of age who want to learn about their children’s behaviour and how to give them the best start in life.
The sessions are fun and informal and include discussions on introducing healthier food, increasing activity and reducing screen time. A creche service is provided, and you’ll receive a toolkit to use at home. Each programme cohort has 5 sessions lasting 2 hours. For further information, contact your local Family Centre or Health Visitor.