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Consultation to add frozen fruit and vegetables to Healthy Start Scheme

Friday, 15 October 2010

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety is seeking views on proposals to extend the Healthy Start Scheme to add frozen fruit and vegetables to the foods already allowed.

This is part of a joint UK-wide public consultation which is launching in Northern Ireland today. Healthy Start is a statutory scheme supporting many thousands of low income and nutritionally vulnerable pregnant women and families across the UK.

Launching the consultation in Northern Ireland, Michael McGimpsey said: “Healthy Start currently helps around 17,000 pregnant women and children in low-income families in Northern Ireland through vouchers that can be used to buy milk, fresh fruit and vegetables. We are now looking at making the scheme even better and are seeking views on extending Healthy Start to include frozen fruit and vegetables.”

Eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day can significantly reduce deaths from stroke, some cancers and coronary heart disease.

The Minister continued: “Plain frozen fruit and vegetables also count towards the recommended five-a-day, and frozen goods are often cheaper than fresh. Therefore under these proposals, vulnerable families could benefit from more healthy dietary choice and flexibility and greater value.”

The consultation closes on 31 December 2010 and is available for download

Notes to editors:

1. This is a joint consultation between the Department of Health (England), The Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly Government and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland. The Department of Health is co-ordinating the consultation for the UK. The consultation on the Healthy Start proposals ends on 31 December 2010.

2. To qualify for Healthy Start you must be at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old AND you or your family get:

  • Income Support, or
  • Income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance, or
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or
  • Child Tax Credit (but not Working Tax Credit unless your family is receiving Working Tax Credit run-on only*) and an annual family income of £16,190 or less in 2010/11.

You also qualify if you are under 18 and pregnant, even if you don’t get any of the above benefits or tax credits.

* Working Tax Credit run-on is the Working Tax Credit you receive in the four weeks immediately after you have stopped working for 16 hours or more per week.

3. Healthy Start also provides coupons which can be exchanged for Healthy Start vitamin tablets for women and Healthy Start children’s vitamins drops.

4. Canned, dried or juiced fruit and vegetables are not included in this consultation because it can be difficult to distinguish between types that contain added salt or sugar.

5. Extending the scheme could increase the risk that some vouchers are exchanged for products not covered by the scheme, so the consultation also contains proposals to minimise the risk of voucher misuse.

6. Press enquiries to the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0575, out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.