Almost a quarter of eligible families in Bath and North East Somerset are missing out on an estimated £75,852 of free fruit, vegetables, vitamins and milk a year due to unclaimed Healthy Start benefit.

Bath & North East Somerset Council estimates that there are 290 eligible families in the district who are not yet receiving Healthy Start and is encouraging them to come forward if they think they might be entitled to the support.

Healthy Start is an NHS scheme to help anyone more than 10 weeks pregnant or with a child under four, who meets the eligibility criteria, buy healthy food and milk.

The Healthy Start benefit is added onto a digital card to spend at shops that accept Mastercard.

Those eligible can receive £4.25 each week of pregnancy from the 10th week, £8.50 a week for children from birth to 1 and £4.25 a week for children aged between 1 and 4, plus free multivitamins. There is no limit to the number of children that a family can apply for.

Nationally, the number of households where children are experiencing food insecurity has nearly doubled in the past year with an estimated 3.7 million children at risk of going hungry.

Becky Reynolds, Director of Public Health at Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “We encourage all families to check at whether they might be eligible for Healthy Start support. In addition to receiving a digital card with four-weeks’ worth of benefit to spend on healthy foods, those eligible can collect free vitamins during pregnancy and breastfeeding and vitamin drops for babies and young children. We would love to see more eligible families in B&NES making the most of this benefit.”

Parents on Universal Credit who are at least 10 weeks pregnant or have at least one child under 4 years old can apply if their monthly take home pay is £408 or less from employment. Families receiving Child Tax Credit earning £16,190 or less a year can also apply if they don’t also receive Working Tax Credit. The Healthy Start Card can also be used to collect free multivitamins for pregnant and breastfeeding mums, and vitamin drops for children under 4 not on first infant formula.

Healthy Start can be contacted on 0300 330 7010 by anyone without access to the Internet.