How you can get more for your Healthy Start vouchers in Ipswich
- Credit: Archant
Families who receive the government's Healthy Start vouchers can now get £5 of fruit, vegetables and milk instead of the standard £4.25 if they shop at the Co-op.
The East of England Co-op will be boosting vouchers after it decided it "must go further" to help families.
From April 1, the value of Healthy Start vouchers increased from £3.10 to £4.25 following a campaign by Manchester United and England star Marcus Rashford to tackle child food poverty in the UK.
The 23-year-old footballer launched a child food poverty taskforce and as a member, the East of England Co-op had been enhancing the vouchers from £3.10 to £4.25 in its stores since September last year.
Following the increase to £4.25, the retailer will now top up the vouchers to £5.
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Healthy Start vouchers provide additional support for pregnant women and families on lower incomes to access healthy foods.
The vouchers can be used in a wide range of retailers to buy fresh, frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables, fresh, dried or tinned pulses, plain cow’s milk and infant formula.
Figures released by charity End Child Poverty in June last year revealed one in four children in Ipswich were living in poverty.
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Niall O’Keeffe, joint chief executive from the East of England Co-op, said: “Our Co-op welcomes the government’s decision to increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers.
"No child should have to go hungry and through our work to tackle and understand food poverty in our region we have seen the effect that food insecurity has had on local parents and children.
“While welcoming this much-needed change from the government, we feel that we must go further to ensure families can access healthy nutritious food and so we are proud to be topping up the new value of Healthy Start vouchers to £5.
“We encourage all local families to check to see if they are eligible to receive Healthy Start vouchers. Once you have received your vouchers just pop to your nearest East of England Co-op and present them at the till when buying any eligible food items. The value will automatically be topped up to £5.”
Meanwhile, Labour has criticised the government for reducing the value of holiday food boxes over the two-week Easter break.
Jack Abbott, Labour's spokesman for children’s services in Suffolk, said the voucher scheme offered during the February half-term was worth £15 to families, while the meal boxes this time are worth £8.
"The Conservatives’ decision to halve the value of school holiday food support comes at the worst possible time," he said.
"It’s clear that there needs to be a permanent, easy to access system to address growing holiday hunger and food poverty more widely.
"The government is again making last minute decisions and there is no plan for the May half-term."
Suffolk County Council deputy leader Mary Evans, who is also the cabinet member for children’s services, said the 14,000 free school meal boxes ordered for Easter contain lots of "fresh fruit and vegetables".
She also defended the £8 cost per box to the county council saying cheap prices from the supermarkets and bulk buying from Pink Orange, part of Lowestoft-based charity Access Community Trust, means there is a lot in the boxes.
For more information on the Healthy Start scheme and how to apply, click here.