Tesco is giving free fruit and vegetables to 500,000 low income families - but who is eligible?

Families on a low income will be eligible to claim free £1 coupons to spend on fruit and vegetables at Tesco this month.

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From 16 November, 500,000 shoppers who already get Healthy Start vouchers (a government scheme for families on certain benefits or people who are pregnant) will be able to claim the supermarket’s new coupons.

How does the scheme work?

To get the coupon, customers simply need to hand over their weekly Healthy Start voucher at the checkout in Tesco stores in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Each time a voucher is handed over, customers will automatically receive the £1 money-off coupon to redeem off their next shop.

In Scotland, Healthy Start vouchers are issued online, so Tesco says it will also issue the money off coupons virtually.

The £1 coupons can be used by shoppers to buy any fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables.

However, if shoppers purchase items that cost less than £1 they won’t get the difference refunded in cash. Similarly, if you buy items costing more than £1, you will have to pay the difference.

The coupons are being provided as part of the campaign against food poverty, led by footballer Marcus Rashford, who has called for free school meal vouchers to be extended over school holidays.

After the government refused, many businesses voluntarily helped out over the October half term.

Rashford’s Child Poverty Task Force (of which Tesco is a member) is currently pressing the government to increase the value of the Healthy Start vouchers from £3.10 per week to £4.25 per week.

Who is eligible for the Healthy Start scheme?

To be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme, you must be at least 10 weeks pregnant, have a child under the age of four, or receive one of the following benefits:

  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance (this is only applicable while you are more than ten weeks pregnant, once the child is born you no longer qualify under this benefit)
  • Child tax credit with a family income of £16,190 or less a year
  • Pension credit
  • Universal Credit with no earned income or total earned income of £408 or less a month for the family

Mums-to-be can also qualify if they are under 18 and pregnant, even if they don’t get any benefits.

To apply for the scheme, visit the Healthy Start website and fill out an application.

If you live in Scotland and want to check if you qualify, visit the government website.

What can the vouchers be spent on?

Once you get the vouchers, they can be spent in any shop that is registered to take part in the Healthy Start scheme within 12 weeks.

The vouchers can be spent on:

  • plain cow’s milk - whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed. It can be pasteurised, sterilised, long life or UHT
  • fresh, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables including loose, pre-packed, whole, sliced, chopped or mixed fruit or vegetables, fruit in fruit juice, or fruit or vegetables in water, but not those to which fat, salt, sugar or flavouring have been added
  • fresh, dried and tinned pulses, including but not limited to lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas but not those to which fat, salt, sugar or flavouring have been added
  • infant formula milk that says it can be used from birth and is based on cow’s milk