Small boy with fresh fruit in shop

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The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has put its weight behind a proposal to introduce a new law that would mean people eligible for Healthy Start are automatically signed up to the scheme, which is a prepaid card system giving families and pregnant mothers access to healthy foods. 

Worrying new data from The Food Foundation shows Healthy Start uptake is extremely low across England, with only two in 533 constituencies meeting the Government’s own target of 75%.

This falls far behind that of Scotland’s equivalent scheme, Best Start Foods, where uptake has reached 88% thanks to promoting the package through television, radio and digital advertising and making it easier to apply. What’s more, Scottish retailers at 2,200 stores across the country are actively raising awareness of the scheme and letting customers know that it is an accepted form of payment, thanks to a new partnership between the Scottish Grocers’ Federation Healthy Living Programme and card provider Social Security Scotland.

Labour MP for South Shields Emma Lewell-Buck, who made the proposal at the House of Commons yesterday in a Ten-Minute Rule Motion, said: “Automatic enrolment would increase take-up, ensuring that the millions of pounds sat in the Treasury, allocated to those mothers and babies, is exactly where it should be.”

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Local shops play a key role in providing a key role in feeding the communities that they serve and ensuring that their customers have access to healthy foods. We strongly support this Motion and all efforts to promote uptake of Healthy Start. 

“The Department of Health and Social Care needs to take a more active role in encouraging take up of the scheme by investing time and resource to support retailers with the promotion of Healthy Start in their stores which will in turn increase awareness amongst consumers.”

A guide for retailers on the scheme is available here and materials such as social media assets and till stickers to communicate this scheme to customers are available here.