free fruit and vegetables when the first phase of the new Healthy
Start initiative is introduced, announced health minister Melanie
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
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
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
The consultation period will run until 26 April.