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Healthy Start

Healthy Start is a government initiative which provides pregnant women and parents with young children, who are in receipt of qualifying benefits get healthy food, milk and vitamins. The scheme is available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland have their own scheme called Best Start Foods.

Eligible customers can purchase the products using a pre-paid card and retailers can accept the NHS Healthy Start card payments if your store accepts Mastercard® and sells eligible healthy food and milk items.



Plain cow’s milk

Whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed. It can be pasteurised, sterilised long-life or UHT

Fresh, frozen, or tinned fruit and vegetables

these can be loose, prepacked, whole, sliced, chopped, or mixed fruit or vegetables

Fruit in fruit juice, or fruit or vegetables in water

Not those with added fat, salt, sugar, or flavourings

Cow’s milk-based infant formula milk

This must be labelled as suitable for use from birth

Fresh, dried, and tinned pulses

Including lentils, beans, peas, and chickpeas but not those with added fat, salt, sugar, or flavourings

It is not the retailer’s responsibility check what people buy with their card as it’s the responsibility of the person using the card.

If a customer is buying NHS Healthy Start items alongside the rest of their shopping, they may ask to split their payment between their prepaid card and normal bank card or cash. If this is not possible in your store, they may need to do this as separate transactions.

Help Promote the Scheme

National uptake is low with only being 62.7% (February 2023) of eligible people using the scheme. You can do your part and help your community by help promote the scheme to raise its awareness to eligible customers.

You can download a range of promotional materials here to help you promote the NHS Healthy Start scheme to your customers. These materials include, but are not limited to:

• Social media toolkit, content and graphics

• Editable posters and stickers

• Digital screen designs and video animations

A full guide on the Healthy Start scheme for retailers is available here which covers everything you need to know on how the scheme works and what you can to do help raise awareness to customers.

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