Lidl is increasing the value of Healthy Start vouchers three months ahead of new national changes kicking in.

In what it described as a supermarket-first initiative, Lidl said it would increase the value of Healthy Start Vouchers issued to parents in England and Wales from £3.10 to £4.25, from 4 January until the end of March 2021. Its move has been backed by the Child Poverty Task Force, formed and spearheaded by footballer Marcus Rashford, of which Lidl is a member.

Intended to support early years developments, the vouchers will enable parents and families that utilise the scheme and who shop in Lidl, to buy a range of healthy products outlined by the government including fresh, tinned, and frozen fruit, vegetables, and pulses, as well as milk, formula and vitamins to feed their young children.

Rashford’s Task Force has successfully lobbied the government to increase the value of the Healthy Start vouchers from April of next year, but Lidl said it is investing up to £1m to plug the gap between January 2021 and the planned government increase in the value of the vouchers to £4.25 in April 2021.

Lidl GB chief executive Christian Härtnagel said: “At Lidl, we know that it has been a challenging year for families and budgets are tight. We all have a role to play within the community and we are committed to helping these families in any way we can. This is why we have decided to bring forward the planned increase to the value of the Healthy Start vouchers across all our stores in England and Wales. We hope that it will enable parents up and down the country to access more healthy essentials to help feed their children.”

Rashford added: “I’m delighted that Lidl has made such a positive move and committed to increasing the value of Healthy Start vouchers. This was one of our Taskforce’s key asks and will make a huge difference to the most vulnerable people in our communities. We were thrilled when the government committed to increasing the value of Healthy Start vouchers from April next year, however there is an urgent need to act now.

'Lidl’s decision to take action and support families and those in need further demonstrates what can be achieved when we work together. I would encourage all parents and families that need that extra support to sign up to the government’s scheme.”

Henry Dimbleby, the independent lead for the National Food Strategy, said: “The huge strain on family budgets resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic has made tackling rising child food poverty a matter of national urgency. That’s why one of our key recommendations in the National Food Strategy Part I was for the government to increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers so that young children from low-income households can have access to the nutritious foods they need.

'We are delighted that this call has been met, by government who will increase the value of the voucher from next April, and by retailers such as Lidl and Co-op who will be boosting the scheme to support their customers directly. This will have a rapid and significant impact on the diets and health of our youngest and most vulnerable children at a most critical time.”