A campaign has been launched to tell families they could be missing out on government vouchers worth up to £900 per child to help with healthy food and vitamins.
For families on a tight budget, one of the biggest barriers to eating well is the cost of healthy food including fruit and veg, yet there are literally thousands of pounds in Government support going unclaimed in the city.
Many families in the city are struggling to eat well, with some desperate parents skipping meals to feed their children, research for the Brighton & Hove Food Poverty Action Plan revealed.
The vouchers could help families boost their fruit and vegetable intake to the increased recommended limit of ten portions a day each.
Healthy Start vouchers (based on the old ‘milk vouchers’) help low income families on certain benefits who are either pregnant or have children under four, to buy milk, or fresh or frozen fruit and veg.
The vouchers plus free vitamins add up to over £900 per child if someone signs up at the first opportunity, when they are ten weeks pregnant. Yet three out of every ten households in our city who could be getting these vouchers aren’t claiming them.
Brighton and Hove Food Partnership, Sussex Community Foundation Trust, and Brighton and Hove City Council’s Children’s Centres are asking all community and voluntary groups and professionals who work with children or families to promote the vouchers.
How to apply for the vouchers
To apply for the vouchers families need to complete a simple application form and have it signed by their midwife or health visitor, or their GP. The easiest way to do this is to drop in to their nearest Children’s Centre and speak to a receptionist.
Organisations can order application packs for free from https://www.healthystart.nhs.uk/for-health-professionals/ or by calling 0300 123 1002 and asking for “HS01”. For a free locally designed poster, or to request a short training session or talk for your staff or volunteers, email or call Brighton & Hove Food Partnership 01273 431700.
Healthy Start Vouchers are worth at least £3.10 per week, double if the child is aged under one year. They can be spent on milk, or fresh or frozen fruit and veg to spend on milk, or fresh or frozen fruit and veg. You qualify for Healthy Start if you’re at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old and you or your family get:
· Income Support, or
· Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or
· Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or
· Child Tax Credit (with a family income of £16,190 or less per year)
· Universal Credit (with a family take home pay of £408 or less per month)
You also qualify if you are under 18 and pregnant, even if you don’t get any of the above benefits.
There is a list of children’s centres on the council’s website.
For more suggestions for families struggling to eat well on a budget, including information on free school meals and on Chomp, the school holiday lunch club see the Food Partnership website.