PARENTS in East Sussex are missing out on extra funds for milk, fruit and vegetables.

Families are being urged to check if they are eligible for help to buy milk and food through the NHS Healthy Start initiative.

The NHS scheme provides funds each month to buy milk, fruit and vegetables, and obtain free vitamins.

Women who are over 10 weeks pregnant as well as families with a child under 4 and who are in receipt of certain benefits can apply for the scheme.

It is estimated that over 1400 eligible families in East Sussex are missing out on at least £320,000 of available funding every year.

Annual funding of at least £85,000 is estimated to be going unclaimed by families in Hastings, and eligible families in Wealden are missing out on £71,000 every year.

Parents in Rother and Lewes are failing to claim at least £46,000 and £48,000 respectively each year, while in Eastbourne there is an estimated £68,000 available for those who qualify.

People who qualify for help will be sent a Healthy Start card with money loaded on it that can be used in shops such as supermarkets, convenience stores, petrol stations, and pharmacies that display the Mastercard® symbol and sell healthy food and milk.

The Healthy Start card is topped up automatically once a month.

Pregnant women will receive £4.25 each week of their pregnancy (from the tenth week). Families with young children will get £8.50 each week for children from birth to 1 year old, and £4.25 each week for children between 1 and 4 years old.

The card can be used to buy plain liquid cow’s milk; fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetables; fresh, dried, and tinned pulses; and infant formula milk based on cow’s milk.

It can also be used get Healthy Start women’s vitamin tablets and children’s vitamin drops for free.

Darrell Gale, East Sussex Director of Public Health, said: “The NHS Healthy Start scheme supports young families and those who are pregnant to access healthy food, milk and vitamins.

“Good nutrition is very important for pregnant women and young children and the scheme helps families to make healthy food choices.

“I would urge pregnant women and families with children under 4 to check their eligibility for this handy prepaid card.”

For more information on Healthy Start and details of how to apply visit www.healthystart.nhs.uk/.