Boosting Healthy Start take-up
Here at Food for Life HQ, addressing childhood food inequity is in our DNA.
We’re loudly supporting the #endchildfoodpoverty campaign and particularly Marcus Rashford’s calls to create long-term solutions for those 2.5 million children living in food poverty.
One critical part of this puzzle is Healthy Start vouchers, which provide pregnant women and parents of under 4s in receipt of benefits (or with No Recourse to Public Funds) with funds to spend on food items to make healthy eating easier. We’re supporting the National Food Strategy’s call to make Healthy Start vouchers available to more families.
Our Early Years Award asks all Food for Life nurseries to evidence how they’re boosting Healthy Start take-up by promoting it to every family, so no one that’s eligible needs to miss out. Our Nottinghamshire nurseries and public health partners are great exemplars of the art of the possible – seven nurseries across Nottinghamshire are working towards their Food for Life awards as part of the Childhood Obesity Trailblazer project (2020-22).
Nottinghamshire County Council has been delighted to report a 10% increase in Healthy Start uptake between October 2020 and July 2021 in four districts – meaning an additional 252 families are benefitting from an uplift to their household budget to spend on fruit, vegetables and milk.
Kate Whittaker (Nottinghamshire County Council) and team have created a powerful, community-wide alliance to boost take-up. “We’ve utilised all sorts of community partners to make sure we’re getting beyond any potential stigma around Healthy Start. We know Midwives and Health Visitors really impact take-up, but other community partners have made a real difference in terms of reaching new audiences: Food on our Doorstep (FOOD) club coordinators, for example, have been great. A mix of hard copy resources, digital calculators and friendly people that interact with parents-to-be and families at different stages have created a localised alliance that has boosted take-up and benefitted the families that need it most.”
Jayne Gorewoda, from Butler’s Hill Children’s Centre in Nottinghamshire is integrating promotion of Healthy Start Vouchers into her management of Healthier@Home Meal Kits, a service Nottinghamshire has been trialling as part of their Childhood Obesity Trailblazer project. “We’ve been building relationships with families through creating and delivering our local authority Healthier@Home kits. They know us, so starting a conversation around the Healthy Start vouchers and quickly testing eligibility via the digital calculator has been a simple and effective way to boost uptake.”
The integrated, multi-faceted approach led by Nottinghamshire with local children’s centres, Food for Life nurseries and more has made an enormous difference to the lives of more than 252 families across the County.