Help with food

Help with food

There are times when people struggle to afford food. Perhaps they've lost their job or have received an unexpected bill when on a low income. If you find yourself in this position, there is support available:

  • it could be an emergency food parcel
  • access to low-cost food (for example, a 'community pantry')
  • meals for people who are homeless

Use our directory to search for help in your area.

Find your local foodbank at

Healthy Start Scheme

Get help to buy healthy food and milk. The Healthy Start scheme is a national government welfare scheme for families on low income that has run for many years. Pregnant women, or families who have children under four years old, may be entitled to get vouchers or payments every four weeks.

If you’re eligible, you’ll be sent a Healthy Start card with money on it that you can use in some UK shops. We’ll add your benefit onto this card every 4 weeks.

You can use your card to buy:

  • plain liquid cow’s milk
  • fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetables
  • fresh, dried, and tinned pulses
  • infant formula milk based on cow’s milk

You can also use your card to collect:

  • Healthy Start vitamins – these support you during pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Vitamin drops for babies and young children – these are suitable from birth to 4 years’ old

Who is eligible?

Broadly, you’ll qualify if you’re more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4, and receiving certain benefits you may be entitled to get help to buy healthy food and milk.

If you are pregnant and under 18 you do not need to be in receipt of benefits to qualify.

If you are not a British citizen but have a child who is and is under 4 years old, you may qualify.

Healthy Start - Who is Eligible? (Animation)

Healthy Start - Under 18 and pregnancy eligibility (Animation)

Healthy Start - What you can buy with your card (Animation)

Healthy Start - Vitamins (Animation)

Healthy Start - Apply Online (Animation)

How does the scheme work?

By September 2022, the voucher scheme will be fully digital, with families being issued a pre-paid card which can be used in chip and pin machines at participating retailers. The card is automatically topped up every four weeks.

During the transition period (from September 2021), some families will still be issued paper vouchers. Registered Healthy Start providers should accept both methods. Families using paper vouchers will be contacted during the transition period to re-apply online for a card.

How to apply

For more information on who can qualify and how to apply visit Healthy Start

Support for you

The NHS has answered some frequently asked questions which may help.

If you need any help you can speak to your midwife or your health visitor.

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