Healthy Start Vouchers

Healthy Start is one way that CSAs can ensure the food they produce is more accessible and affordable for others. Below is more information specifically on the Healthy Start voucher scheme and how it can work for CSAs.

What is Healthy Start?

Healthy Start is the UK government’s food welfare scheme and acts as a nutritional safety net for pregnant women and young children in low-income families. Those eligible in England, Wales and Northern Ireland get free vouchers each week to spend on £4.25 worth of food, and this includes fresh fruit and vegetables, cow’s milk and fresh or dried pulses.

In Scotland the scheme is Best Start, this is digital and offers a pre-loaded card instead of paper vouchers. The Scotland scheme also includes eggs.

Healthy Start vouchers can be used in shops and retailers registered with the Healthy Start scheme. There are over 21,000 outlets registered across the UK including many independent local shops, food co-operatives, greengrocers, market stalls and food vans.

Why sign up to Healthy Start as a CSA?

  • Most importantly, support families to buy the food they need to give their children a healthy start and make a positive contribution to the health of the local area
  • Attract new customers
  • Increase sales and income
  • It’s free to join
  • Your details are displayed on the Healthy Start website

How?

We are aware that applying to the scheme is not easy or straightforward. Later in the year the scheme should be digitalised and made easier for CSAs and food cooperatives to apply but for now to ensure as many people in your community as possible can access your produce:

To register fill in the short application form, print and send to Healthy Start:

Freepost RTJL-CSJZ-GRRA, HSRU, Barberton House, Farndon Road, MARKET HARBOROUGH, LE16 9NR

The vouchers can be used in full or part payment for eligible foods, CSAs can accept the paper vouchers from customers and then send these to the Healthy Start reimbursement unit for direct payment. You are then paid by Healthy Start for the full value of the vouchers.

Ideas for CSAs to use Healthy Start Vouchers

  • Prepare a fruit/veg bag at the price of a Healthy Start voucher so this can simply be swapped with a voucher
  • Offer home deliveries or delivery to a central point in a town for example, to make your produce more accessible and avoid travel fares
  • Partner with local food access projects that work with families using Healthy Start vouchers, so that they become aware of your CSA. You could also supply fruit/veg bags at these projects facilities

Examples in practice:

  • Cambridge Food Hub run a Healthy Start veg box scheme where members pay £2 plus a Healthy Start voucher each week for a fruit or veg box and the scheme covers additional costs like delivery
  • Growing Communities in London accept vouchers as part or full payment for fruit or veg bags and at their farmers markets
  • Foodwise Leeds set up Good Box, a fruit and veg box for one Healthy Start voucher worth £7-8 of produce. This was funded by an optional charitable donation added to other customers veg boxes

‘It’s really important to us that good quality, healthy and sustainably produced food is accessible to all people. However, it is an unavoidable fact that food with higher production values is dearer than its mass-market counterparts. As a company we try to address this inherent inequality in food distribution by subsidising the cost of a certain number of veg boxes each week, through our ‘Healthy Start Veg Box Scheme’. The great thing about Healthy Start from our perspective is that it helps us identify households that need this kind of support, as well as linking in with a national food provision scheme.’ Duncan Catchpole Cambridge Organic Food Co.

If you know someone who may be eligible for Healthy Start vouchers they can apply to receive vouchers at this link: Healthy Start Vouchers Online Application Form