Healthy Start vouchers – which can be used to buy fresh fruit, vegetables and milk – provide crucial access to healthy food for those who need it most: qualifying pregnant women, babies and toddlers.

But recently the take up of Healthy Start Vouchers across England has fallen, in some areas, dramatically. It’s unclear why only around a half of those entitled to claim Healthy Start Vouchers are doing so, but lack of awareness could be key – especially now many key points for signposting eligible families to Health Start vouchers, such as Mother and Baby groups, have been closed due to the pandemic.

Right now, many families are missing out on fresh and healthy food that they’re entitled to – potentially going hungry in the process. That’s why this week, I wrote to every Council leader in England and asked them to run new promotional campaigns for Healthy Start – targeting those who need them most. We’ve already had a commitment from multiple councils to run campaigns promoting the vouchers in the New Year.

The Covid-19 crisis has meant that food insecurity has rarely been such a topical issue, so it has been amazing to see the co-operative movement step up – with several retail societies topping up the value of the vouchers in their stores.

We’ve also welcomed the Government’s commitment to increase the value of Healthy Start Vouchers in April 2021, following the recommendation to do so from the National Food Strategy – as well as encouragement from Marcus Rashford’s brilliant #ENDCHILDFOODPOVERTY campaign.

But increasing the worth of the vouchers only has real value if they are actually reaching the hands of those who need them most. That’s why councils, communities and co-operatives need to work together and ensure Health Start gets the publicity it needs and deserves.

You can do your bit too. You can spread the word about Healthy Start on Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp now.