We join 100-strong coalition demanding action on Healthy Start

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The Food Foundation has joined a coalition of more than 100 organisations calling on the Government to urgently increase the value of Healthy Start payments in line with inflation to help families struggling with the cost of living crisis.

Analysis from Sustain shows problems with applying for and using the new digital cards means 253,887 eligible households in England and Wales could be missing out on more than £78 million in voucher payments towards healthy food.

It comes as food inflation has risen to 16%, leaving more households unable to afford essentials including fruit and vegetables and infant formula.

As a result we've joined a host of charities, councils, Directors of Public Health, and food partnerships in writing to the Secretaries of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, Department for Work and Pensions and the Chief Executive of NHS Business Services Authority demanding immediate action to address these issues.

Rebecca Tobi, Senior Business and Investor Engagement Manager at the Food Foundation, said: "As the cost of living crisis continues, supporting and bolstering the Healthy Start scheme is more important than ever.

"Our research has shown that the number of families experiencing food insecurity has continued to rise since the Covid pandemic. But the current crisis has made the situation worse.

"We know that nutrition during early childhood is a critical part of supporting normal health and development, yet many families are having to cut back on buying healthy foods or are being pushed into food insecurity.

"Helping more eligible families to access this vital scheme at this crucial time ought to be a national policy priority."

Healthy Start provides pregnant women or pre-school aged children in low-income households with a weekly payment to spend on healthy foods.

We earlier called for the scheme to be expanded and strengthened – by increasing the eligibility criteria, uptake rates and value of the scheme, and by resolving outstanding issues associated with the scheme’s digitsation process.

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