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The EU School Fruit, Vegetables and Milk Scheme has become operational for the 2017-2018 academic year.
The €250 million scheme, which is delivered under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), provides funds to Member States to subsidise activities relating to the distribution of milk, fruit and vegetables to school children in EU Member States.
The newly-launched scheme brings together the previously separate EU School Milk Scheme, established in 1977, and the School Fruit Scheme, established in its current form from 2009, both funded under the CAP. Over the course of the 2015/16 school year, the School Fruit Scheme reached 11.7 million children in around 80,000 schools across Europe.
Current World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines recommend a minimum intake of 400 grams of fruit and vegetables a day in order to improve health and reduce the risk of certain diseases.
The new combined scheme was approved by the European Parliament and Council in 2016, following a public consultation on the proposal to combine the schemes. The combined scheme will allocate €145m for fruit and vegetables and €105m for milk products, with funds allocated to Member States based on the school-age population.
Uptake of allocated funds under the previous 2015-2016 implementation of the School Fruit and Vegetables Scheme ranged from over 95% of allocated funds in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Lithuania, to 24% in Portugal and 8% in France.
A 2012 evaluation of the first two years of the School Fruit Scheme and a 2013 evaluation of the School Milk Scheme found that both programmes had a positive impact on short-term consumption of milk and fruit and vegetables by children, although additional educational measures and initiatives may be needed to encourage a sustainable, long-term change in children’s consumption habits.
In addition to supporting the direct provision of fruit and vegetables to children, the scheme also aims to encourage a range of educational activities to encourage children to adopt healthy eating habits. Activities by Member States under the previous School Fruit Scheme have included visits to farms, the development of school gardens, and tasting classes.
The development of the School Fruit, Vegetables and Milk Scheme complements other policy initiatives. Notably, the EU Action Plan on Childhood Obesity 2014-2020, drawn up by the EU High Level Group on Nutrition and Physical Activity with the goal of halting the rise in obesity amongst children and young people by 2020, sets out eight priority areas for Member States in supporting child health, including promoting healthy eating at school and home. To support the Action Plan, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) published a toolkit on promoting fruit and vegetable consumption in schools in 2016. In 2014, the JRC also produced a report mapping national school food policies across the EU28, Norway and Switzerland to provide an overview of standards, provision and availability of healthy and unhealthy food in European schools.
The European Platform for Investing in Children (EPIC) provides examples of evidence-based practices relating to encouraging fruit and vegetable consumption amongst children: