Healthy Start Scheme
Healthy Start is a scheme which gives you free vouchers to spend every week on essentials, such as, milk, plain fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, and infant formula milk. You can also receive free vitamins too.
If you’re pregnant or have children under the age of four, you could qualify if you're in receipt of benefits, or if you're pregnant and under the age of 18.
It's very important to maintain a healthy and nutritious diet if you're pregnant, or planning a pregnancy. Your baby relies on you to be given a balance of nutrients in order to grow and develop properly. If you are breastfeeding it is really important to include a wide variety of fresh, healthy foods in your diet too.
Eating a healthy, varied diet will provide you with most of the vitamins and minerals you need, but during pregnancy you also need to take a folic acid supplement too. It's also recommended that you take a daily vitamin D supplement as well. This is especially important in the winter months (October - March) when there is not enough sunlight exposure.
How the scheme works
If you meet the eligibility criteria for the scheme you’ll be sent vouchers which can be used in over 30,000 shops throughout the UK. These vouchers can be exchanged for essential fruit, vegetables, milk and formula milk.
In addition to the vouchers, you can also receive coupons to exchange for:
- Vitamins during pregnancy
- Vitamins whilst breastfeeding
- Vitamins for children aged six months and up to five years old
To search for a retailer in your area that will accept the vouchers and coupons visit www.healthystart.nhs.uk to use the healthy start postcode tool.
To qualify for the Healthy Start scheme you will need to be either:
- At least ten weeks pregnant, or
- Have at least one child under the age of four
In addition to this, you must be in receipt of at least one of the following:
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Child Tax Credit (if your family’s annual income is £16,190 or less only)
- Universal Credit (but only if your family earns £408 or less per month from their employment)
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Working Tax Credit (but only if your family is receiving the four week ‘run-on’ payment)
You will also qualify for the Healthy Start scheme if you’re pregnant and under the age of 18, even if you don't receive any benefits.
If you meet the eligibility criteria you will receive vouchers worth £3.10 each to spend on:
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Plain frozen fruit and vegetables
- Infant formula
You will receive one voucher per week if:
- You’re pregnant
- You have a child aged between one and four
You will receive two vouchers per week if:
- you have a child under the age of one
You can also receive green coupons to exchange for free vitamin supplements. Your midwife or health visitor can advise you as to where to go to exchange your coupons locally.
What to buy
There is a good selection of foods you can purchase with your vouchers.
This must be plain cow’s milk only (whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed). It also needs to be pasteurised, sterilised, long-life or ultra-heat treated (UHT).
You will not be able to exchange your vouchers for flavoured milk, coloured milk, evaporated milk, condensed milk, goat’s milk, soya milk, powdered milk (unless it’s infant formula) or milk with anything added, for example milkshakes or vitamin-enriched milk.
Plain fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables
You can obtain your vouchers for any plain fresh or frozen fruit or vegetables, whole or chopped, packaged or loose.
Fruit or vegetables not allowed will be those with added ingredients such as fat (oil), salt, sugar or flavourings. This includes oven chips and battered onion rings. You also can’t exchange them for dried, canned, juiced or pre-cooked fruit and vegetables or on smoothies.
Infant formula milk
Healthy Start vouchers can only be used to buy nutritionally complete stage one formula and it must be suitable from birth. This means the vouchers cannot be exchanged for follow-on formula.
You are not permitted to exchange your vouchers for infant formulas that are not based on cow’s milk, for example soya formulas and goat’s milk formulas – or on any follow-on formulas that say on the packaging that they are for babies aged six months or older.
How to apply
You can complete an application for Healthy Start vouchers by filling in the online form and printing it out. Visit: www.healthystart.nhs.uk
Alternatively you can download the form directly from their website.
You’ll need to get your midwife, health visitor or registered doctor or nurse to sign it before returning it to:
Healthy Start Issuing Unit
PO Box 1067
You can also pick up an application form from your midwife or ‘health visitor’, or by phoning the Healthy Start helpline.
Healthy Start helpline
T: 0345 607 6823