• Families in Wales estimated to have missed out on £1.8m of free fresh fruit, vegetables and milk
• Coalition of charities and health bodies warn the government that more than £28m of healthy food missed out nationally
Food Sense Wales is one of 26 charities and health bodies that have warned Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock that low-income women and children in over 130,000 households are missing out on £28.6m of free fruit, vegetables and milk due to poor promotion of the Healthy Start voucher scheme.
Of this, £1.8m would have gone to Welsh families, a huge blow to the budgets of those who need it most.
The vouchers adds at least £3.10 to a family shop per child each week or up to £900 over the first four years of the child’s life. Over the first four years of a child’s life this is equivalent to 1,090 pints of milk, 1,100 apples, 218kg of carrots and 143kg of peas.
The Sustain food and farming alliance, which coordinated the open letter, is encouraging people to write to their MP about Healthy Start to make sure all children have access to fresh fruit and vegetables for a healthy start in life.
Our research in Cardiff showed that over £300,000 worth of Healthy Start Vouchers were left unclaimed and that very few retailers visibly advertise the campaign. Through the Food Power project, we worked in partnership with the Cardiff and Vale Public Health Team, Cardiff Council’s Money Advice Team and the Cardiff and Vale University Hospital Board dietetic team to develop a training package to support frontline staff to raise awareness and uptake of food schemes including Healthy Start. We hope this will go some way to help eligible families access the scheme.
This open letter calls on the Government to fund a programme to ensure that midwives, health visitors, GPs and other relevant staff in health, social care and early years settings actively help all eligible pregnant women and new parents claim their Heathy Start vouchers. The charities and health groups suggest that this programme could be funded from the estimated £28.6 million of Healthy Start vouchers that went unclaimed last year.
The letter also asks the Government to confirm the date for a consultation on Healthy Start, which was committed to by the Department of Health and Social Care last June in Chapter 2 of Childhood Obesity: a plan for action.