A government initiative designed to encourage healthy eating among the less wealthy has got off to a good start, with hundreds of retailers signing up, say Department of Health officials.

Under the Healthy Start scheme, low income families are offered vouchers to exchange for milk, infant formula, fresh fruit and vegetables in grocery stores. The initiative replaces the Welfare Food Scheme.

Healthy Start has attracted 1,000 retailers in Devon and Cornwall where it has been trialled since last November. This compares with 500 in the old scheme in the region. Healthy Start rolls out nationwide in November.

Tony Misson, of Riverford Home Delivery, which delivers local organic produce in west Cornwall, said: "The redemption process is quick and simple with the funds being paid directly into our bank within a few days."