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Parents of toddlers in Devon and Cornwall will soon be able to claim...
Parents of toddlers in Devon and Cornwall will soon be able to claim

free fruit and vegetables when the first phase of the new Healthy

Start initiative is introduced, announced health minister Melanie

Johnson today.

Healthy Start will replace the current Welfare Food Scheme, first

brought in to combat food shortages during the Second World War.

Under Healthy Start, people will receive vouchers for a specific

value that they can use to buy milk, fruit or vegetables in their

local shops.

The vouchers can be used in a wide range of shops and pharmacies. The

existing scheme only includes tokens for milk and infant formula.

Speaking at the launch of a new Healthy Living Centre near Exeter,

Ms Johnson said:

'Poor nutrition in pregnancy and early years can have a significant

impact on health in later childhood. Our aim in revising this scheme

is to make it the kind of scheme that pregnant women and families

participating in it want it to be. This means it has to offer people

much greater choice and flexibility, and support them to make healthy

lifestyle choices whilst respecting their rights to make decisions'.

A consultation document launched today sets out the detail of the

scheme. When the consultation period has ended, the scheme will be

introduced in two phases. The first phase will take place in Devon

and Cornwall, with a national rollout expected in early 2006. When

fully introduced, we estimate around 800,000 people will benefit from

the scheme.

Parents on low incomes will be eligible for the vouchers, which will

be worth at least£5.60 per week for families with children aged

between 0 and one year old, and at least£2.80 per week to families

with children aged over one year old. In addition, all pregnant women

under the age of 18 will be eligible for the scheme, regardless of

family income.

The consultation period will run until 26 April.

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