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NHS Healthy Start - Get help to buy food and milk

What is NHS Healthy Start?

If you're pregnant or have children under the age of 4 you can get payments every 4 weeks to spend on:

  • cow's milk
  • fresh, frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables
  • infant formula milk
  • fresh, dried, and tinned pulses

You can also get free Healthy Start vitamins.

You'll get:

  • £4.25 each week of your pregnancy (from the 10th week of your pregnancy)
  • £8.50 each week for children from birth to 1 year old
  • £4.25 each week for children between 1 and 4 years old

Your money will stop after your child's 4th birthday, or if you no longer receive benefits.

Who can apply?

You'll qualify for the Healthy Start scheme if you're at least 10 weeks pregnant or you have at least one child that's under 4.
In addition, you must be receiving any of the following:

  • Child Tax Credit (only if your family's annual income is £16,190 or less)
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Pension Credit (which includes the child addition)
  • Universal Credit (only if your family's take-home pay is £408 or less per month from employment)

You will also be eligible for Healthy Start if:

  • you're under 18 and pregnant, even if you are not claiming any benefits
  • you claim income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and are over 10 weeks pregnant
  • you or your partner get Working Tax Credit run-on only. (Working Tax Credit run-on is the Working Tax Credit you receive in the 4 weeks immediately after you have stopped working for 16 hours or more per week)

How to apply

  • Visit Healthy Start NHS - Get help to buy food and milk.
  • Fill in the online application form
  • Receive your pre-paid card in the post
  • You'll need to activate your card to get your PIN before using it
  • Shop for healthy food and milk in most retail stores that sells the eligible food and milk items and accepts Mastercard® payments.
  • You'll need to insert your card into the card reader and enter your PIN when you make your first transaction

Your card will be topped up with your benefit every four weeks.

You can also use your card to show proof of eligibility to collect free Healthy Start vitamins

What can I buy?

Fruit and vegetables

They can be:

  • fresh, frozen or tinned
  • whole or chopped
  • packaged or loose
  • fruit in fruit juice
  • fruit, vegetables in water
  • fresh, dried or tinned pulses

They cannot:

  • have added ingredients like fat (oil), salt, sugar or flavourings
  • be juiced or pre-cooked
  • be fruits in syrup
  • be smoothies

Plain cow's milk

This needs to be plain cow's milk, which is pasteurised, sterilised, long-life or ultra-heat treated (UHT).

It cannot be:

  • flavoured
  • coloured
  • evaporated
  • condensed
  • plant-based milk
  • powdered (unless it's stage one infant formula)

Infant formula

  • Stage one only (first infant formula)
  • made from cow's milk
  • nutritionally complete

It cannot be:

  • follow-on formula or milk ('from 6 months', or 'from 6 to 12 months')

Healthy Start Vitamins

You can use your Healthy Start prepaid card to show proof of eligibility to collect Healthy Start vitamins.

Find your nearest vitamin provider on the Healthy Start website.

Take your prepaid card with you when you collect them.

More information

For more information and to apply to the NHS Healthy Start scheme, visit: Healthy Start NHS - Get help to buy food and milk or call us on 0300 330 7010. Our contact centre is open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm (except public holidays).

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @NHSHealthyStart.

Download this information on this page as a leaflet: Healthy Start - Get help to buy food and milk [892kb]