NEWS / Food Poverty

New research shows London’s struggling young families missing out on £5.6million a year of government funding to help them eat

Over 30% of Healthy Start vouchers are not being claimed in London, which would help low income young families afford a healthy diet. London is below national average, with some local authorities making little attempt to increase uptake. Over £200K is unclaimed across 13 London boroughs. 

The findings are released on World Food Day, and as part of London Challenge Poverty Week, ahead of the forthcoming Beyond the Food Bank 2018 report which assesses London’s local authorities’ actions to alleviate food poverty. Healthy Start vouchers are for pregnant women or parents with children under 4 years old with a low or no income. The vouchers go towards the cost of fresh or formula milk, fruit or vegetables.

Topping the list of boroughs missing out on government money is Enfield with over £331,000 going unclaimed. But the research showed that Enfield is already taking good steps to try to increase the uptake of the vouchers. Other boroughs missing out on hundreds of thousands of pounds include Newham with an average of 1,159 households missing out on £286,822.64; Lewisham with an average of 1,145 households missing out on £283,074 and Barking and Dagenham whose residents are losing out on £272,077 worth of vouchers. 

However, 13 boroughs have not demonstrated taking any action to ensure that the support is claimed, including Hillingdon, where over 900 households are missing out on over £220,000 in Healthy Start vouchers.

Lailah Nesbitt-Ahmed, London Food Poverty Campaign Coordinator, commented “Local uptake rates should be set at a minimum of 80% uptake, but no borough across the capital has been able to reach this target. There are many reasons for low uptake rates, but it is not acceptable that some local authorities are doing so little to help struggling families, especially when the money is there on offer.” 

The research, which was partly based on feedback from London Boroughs, has identified that low uptake is due to a range of issues including poor understanding and awareness about the vouchers, low thresholds for eligibility, limited numbers of retailers accepting the vouchers or promoting that they do accept them, stigma around collecting and inconsistent messaging, advice and support.

Sustain’s annual report Beyond the Food Bank report monitors what London boroughs are doing to avert or ease food poverty through 10 measures, one of which is Healthy Start. Statistics from the 2018 report, due to be released in November, show that 20 out of London’s 33 boroughs were undertaking an integrated programme of activities to reach a minimum local uptake rate of 80%. Boroughs such as Greenwich, Tower Hamlets and Lewisham scored top marks for efforts to increase uptake locally such as having a Healthy Start coordinator, providing training to key health care professionals, and increasing the breadth of retailers accepting vouchers. 


For more information please contact: 

Simon Shaw - - 0203 5596 777 (Monday 15 October) 

Lailah Nesbitt-Ahmed – – 0203 5596 777 / 07714 282859 (Tuesday 16 October)


1.    Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity. We represent around 100 national public interest organisations working at international, national, regional and local level.

2.    The Beyond the Food Bank report assesses London local authorities against 10 measures of activities. The London Food Poverty Campaign and Beyond the Food bank report is funded by Trust for London, with additional support from the Mayor of London. The 2018 report will be published in early November 2018. For more information on our work on food poverty in London please see The figures on uptake per borough is calculated from source data from Department of Health and Social Care figures available on request.

3.    The Beyond the Food Bank report assesses whether London local authorities are taking a number of actions to support awareness and uptake of Healthy Start vouchers including having a designated coordinator or champion, training professionals and encouraging retailers to register to accept and promote the vouchers

4.London Challenge Poverty Week. #LDNChallengePoverty week is a chance to talk about how we can solve poverty by building on our values of compassion and justice. Poverty exists in London and affects us all. Tackling poverty is about ensuring we are all able to participate in society. Poverty can be solved by boosting incomes and reducing costs. It’s also a chance to celebrate the great work being done across London to turn the tide of poverty. See:

5. World Food Day is on 16 October. It is a United Nations concept, which this year focuses on promoting the Zero Hunger agenda. 

6. Healthy Start uptake data Sept 2017 – August 2018 (13 4-week cycles)

Borough  Number of households missing out Uptake rate Cash shortfall per year
Barking and Dagenham 1,099.23 60% £272,077.52
Barnet 906.77 58% £224,235.44
Bexley 706.69 61% £175,032.00
Brent 998.69 59% £247,095.68
Bromley 785.31 60% £194,285.52
Camden 525.62 68% £130,107.12
City of London 3.77 77% £954.72
Croydon 705.62 63% £175,244.16
Ealing 972.54 61% £240,660.16
Enfield 1,337.08 62% £331,676.80
Greenwich 1,028.77 65% £254,150.00
Hackney 975.54 68% £240,890.00
Hammersmith and Fulham 230.85 71% £57,177.12
Haringey 796 66% £196,654.64
Harrow 475.85 57% £118,067.04
Havering 812.92 58% £200,774.08
Hillingdon 908 59% £224,482.96
Hounslow 311.08 70% £77,438.40
Islington 689.08 70% £170,470.56
Kensington and Chelsea 181.38 67% £44,907.20
Kingston upon Thames 319.38 60% £78,888.16
Lambeth 853.08 67% £212,301.44
Lewisham 1,144.85 62% £283,074.48
Merton 406.15 61% £100,846.72
Newham 1,158.69 60% £286,822.64
Redbridge 797.31 53% £197,025.92
Richmond upon Thames 257.31 59% £63,471.20
Southwark 541.15 72% £134,650.88
Sutton 189.15 67% £46,798.96
Tower Hamlets 711 71% £176,428.72
Waltham Forest 953.54 60% £235,532.96
Wandsworth 617.15 65% £152,967.36
Westminster 400 69% £98,742.80
Total 22,799.54   £5,643,933.36


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Food Poverty: Over 8 million people in the UK struggle to get enough to eat. Sustain is working with communities, third-sector organisations, local authorities and government, aiming to make sure everyone can eat well.



Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming

Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.