Free fruit for children!
There are currently 22 million overweight children in the EU (5.1 million obese). The daily consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables can help prevent and tackle overweight and obesity in the EU, as well as promote a healthier lifestyle.
For this reason, the European School Fruit Scheme was introduced in the school year 2009-2010 with an overall annual budget of € 90 million. The scheme offers free fruit and vegetables to children in schools across the EU.
As well as providing fruit and vegetables the scheme requires participating countries to set up strategies including educational and awareness-raising initiatives.
A recently published evaluation of the scheme looked at the implementation, the effectiveness and the efficiency and coherence of the project. It emphasises the success achieved over the first two years, its positive impact on children's diet and the advantages for children from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
In 2010-2011, the scheme:
- reached 8 146 290 children in 54 267 schools in 24 EU countries.
- created an additional demand on fruit and vegetables of 43 730 tons.
A positive impact on children's eating habits
The majority of countries/regions involved observed a positive impact of the scheme on children’s fruit and vegetables consumption and indicates an increase of consumption beyond the fruit and vegetables distributed to the children in schools.
It can therefore be concluded that the scheme contributes to increasing the fruit and vegetables consumption of children in the short-term. However, the question whether this impact will also lead to improved eating habits over time can only be evaluated after a longer implementation period of the project.
The evaluation considered the scheme to be, in general, an adequate and necessary contribution to a more balanced nutrition in children. “(…) The involved stakeholders are very positive and schools and children are excited about the Scheme and they all wish for a long-lasting participation in future”, concluded the report.