Blackburn with Darwen Food Alliance

At the moment, many people are struggling to find enough money to cover the cost of groceries and a real challenges is being able to afford fruit and vegetables.

Healthy Start is a benefit designed to help expectant mums and families on low income with children under 4 years to buy milk, baby formula, fruit and vegetables.

However we know that in Blackburn with Darwen 39% of families who are eligible for Healthy Start are not claiming the support they are entitled to.

If you work with or know of young families living on a low income please help us to make sure that they know about it. Here is some information that you might find helpful.

What is Healthy Start?

Healthy start is a benefit paid to women who are more than 10 weeks pregnant and families with children under 4 who are receiving certain benefits. It is specifically to help buy:

  • plain cow’s milk
  • fresh, frozen, or tinned fruit and vegetables
  • fresh, dried, and tinned pulses
  • infant formula milk based on cow’s milk

There are some rules about the kinds of things that can be bought:

Fruit and vegetables should not have added ingredients like fat (oil), salt, sugar or flavourings, such as tinned tomatoes with herbs, kidney beans in chilli sauce, chips or onion rings. Fruit should not be juiced or pre-cooked or in sugar syrup or smoothies.

Plain cow’s milk should not be flavoured or coloured, evaporated, condensed, plant-based milk or powdered (unless it’s stage one infant formula)

Infant formula should be labelled as suitable from birth and should be made from cow’s milk. It should not be follow-on formula or milk (‘from 6 months’, or ‘from 6 to 12 months’).

This information is explained more detail when a person receives their card.


How much is paid?

This is how much is paid once a month

  • £4.25 each week of a woman’s pregnancy from the 10th week
  • £8.50 each week for children from birth to 1 year old
  • £4.25 each week for each child between 1 and 4 years old

How does it work?

Once a person has completed the application process the Healthy Start card, which is a bit like a bank card, arrives by post between 5-10 working days from when a person applies. This is what the card looks like:

It will already have the first payment on it but before it can be used, like a bank card, it needs to be activated. There is information explaining how to do this


The card can be used in most places that accept Mastercard. This includes places like: supermarkets, convenience stores, grocery stores, markets, news agents, petrol stations. If you’re unsure ask someone before you shop.

The Mastercard symbol is normally shown in the shop door or at the till. The card cannot be used online, outside of the UK, including the Republic of Ireland, on a phone wallet app, or to withdraw cash from a cashpoint or to get cash back.

How to apply

There are two ways of applying either online or by phone/email.

Who can apply online?

If a person receives Universal Credit, they can apply if:

  • They are more than 10 weeks pregnant or have at least one child under 4 years old
  • Their family’s monthly ‘take-home pay’ (also called ‘earned income’) is £408 or less from employment

If a person receives Child Tax Credit, they may be eligible for Healthy Start if:

  • their family’s annual income is £16,190 or less
  • they do not get Working Tax Credit

To apply online, they will need their:

  • Name, address and date of birth
  • National Insurance number
  • baby’s due date (if they’re pregnant)
  • benefit award letter if they’re over 18

Who can apply by email or phone?

People can apply by email or phone if they get either:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit (which includes the child addition)

They can also apply by email or phone if they’re more than 10 weeks pregnant and either:

  • under 18 years old and not getting any benefits
  • getting Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • If they get Child Tax Credit and are more than 10 weeks pregnant and have other children who are all aged 4 or older.

To apply by email: email

To apply by phone: call 0300 330 7010 

Phone lines are open 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday (except public holidays).

There are certain situations when someone can claim if they are not a British citizen, but their child is. Information about this can be found

How to shop

If a person is shopping for a number of different things payment can be split between the Healthy Start card and a normal bank card or cash. Some shops will need to do this as separate transactions.

Getting vitamins

Young children may not get enough vitamin A and D even if they’re eating well and when a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding, she may not get enough vitamin C, vitamin D or folic acid. If a person is eligible for Healthy Start they can also use the card to collect:

  • Healthy Start vitamins to support a woman during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • vitamin drops for babies and young children

The person can either ask their midwife or health visitor where to get these from or if they enter the postcode into this website it will show them where they can go find out who stocks Healthy Start vitamins in your local area.

The vitamins tablets and drops do not contain milk, egg, gluten, soya or peanut residues. They’re suitable for vegetarians and halal diets.

Further information about the Healthy Start Voucher can be found here: