The Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle MS, is encouraging eligible families to sign up for Healthy Start to get healthy food and vitamins for free.
Families can get a pre-paid card that is topped up every 4 weeks with credit to buy healthy food - fruit, vegetables, pulses and milk and infant formula. They can also get free Healthy Start vitamins.
Currently, nearly 40% of people within Wales who are eligible for the scheme are not claiming it.
Healthy Start is available to those who are more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four, and are in receipt of certain benefits. From the 10th week of pregnancy until a child turns 4, you could be entitled to more than 1,200 to spend on healthy food.
Healthy Start cards can be used in retailers that sell food and accept MasterCard.
They can be used to buy:
- cow's milk
- fresh, frozen and tined fruit and vegetables
- dried and tinned pulses
- first infant formula milk
You can also collect free Healthy Start vitamins. Taking certain vitamins during pregnancy and in early childhood improves both mothers' and children's health - just ask your midwife or health visitor for advice on where to get them.
Flintshire mum-of-two Emma already benefits from Healthy Start. Emma was told about the scheme by her partner's mother.
Following the birth of her first child, she began accessing the scheme in 2019 and then again after her second child was born. Emma says the Healthy Start Scheme has helped financially and encouraged her to buy healthy foods.
To make the most of her allowance, which is automatically added to her card every four weeks, Emma said:
My tip would be to organise and plan ahead what meals you are going to make for the family. I use fresh fruit and vegetables, but I also use frozen and tinned fruit and vegetable so we can always have some in the meals we make. I always use my Healthy Start allocation to buy these foods.
Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle said:
Typically four in ten people in Wales who could be receiving Healthy Start have not yet applied. I would urge people who think they may qualify to apply on line. Sadly, the increased cost of living is affecting so many families in Wales and across the UK, and I want to ensure that people are aware of Healthy Start and making use of the scheme to help them buy healthy food for their families.
To find out if you're eligible visit www.healthystart.nhs.uk.