MANY families in York could be missing out on free fruit, vegetables and milk, according to a charity.

The government’s Healthy Start voucher scheme entitles mums on low incomes to coupons that can be spent on healthy food.

But in York an estimated £38,419-worth of vouchers were not claimed last year.

Mums can get the coupons by speaking to their midwife or health visitor and filling out an application form.

A group of charities is now calling for the scheme to be better promoted so that more mums and children can benefit from the food coupons, which can be worth up to £900 per child over the first four years of their lives.

They said in York around 70 per cent of people eligible for the programme took part last year.

But campaigners are calling on the government to “fully utilise” the scheme.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society of Public Health, said: “Having access to nutritious food required for healthy development is a right of every child.

“The Healthy Start scheme must be fully utilised, as it has great potential to help combat the rising rates of childhood obesity.

“We know that healthy food is three times more expensive than unhealthy food; the scheme can help those at the greatest disadvantage in the most deprived areas.”

Cllr Carol Runciman, executive member for health at City of York Council, said: “Fruit and vegetables are so important to a child’s development, so it is really encouraging to hear that so many expecting mums and families in York are taking advantage of the Healthy Start scheme. Our midwives and health visitors are clearly doing a great job making sure that families are aware of all the extra support they can get.”

According to the coalition of charities, average take up of the scheme nationally was 64 per cent, with about 135,000 families missing out and no government funding available for midwives and health visitors to promote the programme.

Anyone who is pregnant or has children under the age of four, and claiming any benefits, should go to to find out if they are eligible.