On 1 April, the government increased the value of the vouchers from £3.10 to £4.25, following pressure from Marcus Rashford’s Child Food Poverty Taskforce.
As a member of the taskforce, East of England Co-op has been enhancing the value of Healthy Start vouchers by £1.15 from £3.10 to £4.25 in its stores since last September.
Mr Rashford set up the taskforce – which has drawn support from across the retail co-op movement – to tackle the devastating effects of child food poverty in the UK.
Healthy Start vouchers provide additional support for pregnant women and families on lower incomes to access healthy foods. The vouchers can be used in a wide range of retailers to buy fresh, frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables, fresh, dried or tinned pulses, plain cow’s milk and infant formula.
East of England’s joint CEO Niall O’Keeffe said: “Our co-op welcomes the government’s decision to increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers. No child should have to go hungry and through our work to tackle and understand food poverty in our region we have seen the effect that food insecurity has had on local parents and children.
“While welcoming this much-needed change from the government, we feel that we must go further to ensure families can access healthy nutritious food and so we are proud to be topping up the new value of Healthy Start vouchers to £5.
“We encourage all local families to check to see if they are eligible to receive Healthy Start vouchers. Once you have received your vouchers just pop to your nearest East of England Co-op and present them at the till when buying any eligible food items. The value will automatically be topped up to £5.”
According to the Child Poverty Action Group there were approximately 4.2 million children living in poverty before the pandemic and this number is now predicted to be higher.
The East of England Co-op has been working with communities across East Anglia to tackle the issue of food justice. Since March 2020, it has donated over £82,000 from its Community Cares Fund to foodbanks across the region, and runs foodbank collections in its own stores.
In November, the retailer ran a virtual Food Justice Conference where participants discussed the challenges ahead for foodbanks and other organisations striving for food justice.