Southern Co-op_Healthy Start

Families could get an extra £100 to spend on food as more than 200 local convenience stores will be topping up Healthy Start vouchers by £1.

As part of its work to tackle food poverty, Southern Co-op has promised to add £1 to the value of every Healthy Start Voucher which is currently worth £4.25.

Healthy Start vouchers provide additional support for families on lower incomes with children under four or pregnant women in order to access healthy foods. The vouchers can be used for fresh, frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables, fresh, dried or tinned pulses, cow’s milk and certain infant formula.

The regional, independent co-operative will be offering the top up at all of its 201 stores across Berkshire, Bristol, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Kent, the Isle of Wight, Somerset, Sussex, and Wiltshire.

Southern Co-op’s community and campaign co-ordinator Holly Bramble said: “It breaks my heart to know that 4.28 million children in the UK were living in poverty last year, according to data published by the Department for Work and Pensions.

“Poverty and food inequality are issues that we have been working with our communities to tackle through food donations, our Feed a Family Fund, and other financial support. But whilst there are children still going hungry, then more needs to be done.”

For families who claim two vouchers, this would mean they could get £10.50 per week, or £546 over the year including the top up of £104 a year. For families who get one voucher, this would add up to £273 over 12 months.

Chief operating officer for retail at Southern Co-op Simon Eastwood said: “We welcomed the Government’s move in April to increase the value of its Healthy Start vouchers from £3.10 to £4.25. We hope our extra £1 uplift will make even more of a difference.

“We are firm believers in being a responsible business and supporting our local communities where we can. I am proud that we are supporting such a valuable initiative which will mean children across the south can access fresh fruit or frozen veg which should be a staple of everyone’s diet.”

Once families have received their vouchers, they simply need to present them at the till when buying any eligible food items at a Southern Co-op store and the value will automatically be topped up to £5.25.