National Chef backs food payment push

Champion cook Gary promotes vital Best Start support 

Superchef Gary Maclean has urged people to check whether they may be newly-qualified for a benefit which helps with the cost of buying healthy food, milk and first infant formula. 

Best Start Foods is up to £39.60 via a pre-paid chip and pin card every four weeks to spend on food from pregnancy until a child turns three. 

The Scottish Government benefit was extended In February to include 20,000 more people by removing income limits.  Now anyone who gets a qualifying benefit, is pregnant or has a child under 3, is eligible regardless of their other income. 

Some of those who are eligible might not yet have applied and Gary, who won series nine of the BBC’s Masterchef in 2016, urged them not to miss out. 

Gary, who became Scotland’s first national chef in 2017, emphasised the importance of expectant parents getting all the support available to buy nutritious foods. 

The 52-year-old, said extra available cash could be vital in making ingredients go further when cooking for babies and toddlers. 

Gary said: 

“Best Start Foods is really vital extra help at an important time in people's lives and I would encourage all those who think they may qualify to make the most of it. 

“We are all aware of the rising costs of food in recent years so any help in buying nutritious ingredients can make a difference. 

“Pregnancy is definitely a time when good wholesome food is especially important. This payment is available from as soon as you know you are pregnant and I want people to be aware of that. 

“There are people who may not have been eligible before but are now following some changes to the rules – people can check online and apply if they think they qualify.” 

Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice Shirley-Anne Somerville said: 

“Gary has been a champion of using locally sourced healthy ingredients and using budgets sensibly to make great nutritious meals. 

“Best Start Foods is now available to more people than ever before thanks to our commitment to tackling poverty – with investment of £1.1 billion more than the UK Government gives to the Scottish Government for social security. 

“As Gary has said we want to make sure as many people as possible get this support. If you think you are eligible please check online and apply.” 

The call has been echoed by charity One Parent Families Scotland.

Chief Executive Satwat Rehman said:

“The Best Start Foods grant is a vital source of support for parents, and we very much welcome the fact that the income threshold to qualify has been increased.

“This means that a large number of parents we support will now be eligible, having previously lost out because their income was only just above the threshold.”

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