Two and a half thousand families in Devon can sign up to receive a seasonal fruit and vegetable box this Autumn as part of an initiative to help raise awareness of the government’s Healthy Start scheme, which is due to go digital later this year.
The ‘Get a Healthy Start’ box contains fresh fruit and vegetables and simple plant-based recipe ideas, with tips on how to swap or add ingredients (including meat and fish) and prevent food waste. The box will also contain free vitamins and information on how to apply and make the most of the Healthy Start scheme.
The scheme provides eligible families who are pregnant or have children under the age of 4 with financial support to spend on cow’s milk; fresh, frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables; fresh, dried, and tinned pulses; infant formula, and free vitamins.
Recent research has shown that just under a third of households in Devon with children are experiencing food insecurity, but at the moment, only around 50 per cent of eligible families are signed up to the scheme, which means many are missing out on much needed support.
From the end of October the scheme will be digital, meaning families will no longer receive paper vouchers but will instead be provided with a pre-paid card and PIN with money automatically loaded every four weeks. The sign-up process is now also online or over the phone rather than posting a paper form, and more retailers will be able to participate in the scheme. Vitamins are still currently available from local children’s centres.
Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for Public Health, said:
“We are committed to supporting vulnerable families in Devon and working to address the issues some experience around food insecurity.
“The past 18 months have been a struggle for all of us, particularly those families with young children who face financial challenges of being on low incomes.
“Worrying about money can have a real impact on someone’s physical and mental health, and make it difficult for families to eat healthily, so it’s important they are aware of what support is available to them so they can access it.
“These boxes are designed to highlight the Healthy Start scheme and the upcoming changes to make sure eligible families can access what they are entitled to and ensure families do not miss out.
“They provide some inspiration for recipes which are healthy for people and planet, with ingredients which can be bought using the Healthy Start entitlement, and I’m sure they will be enjoyed by families who receive them so if you think you are eligible, sign up.”