The school fruit, vegetables and milk scheme is designed to help children follow a healthy diet.
Previously operating as separate schemes for milk, and fruit and vegetables, the new combined scheme entered into force on 1 August 2017, ahead of the 2017-18 school year. Like the individual schemes it replaces, the combined scheme is designed to help promote the benefits of healthy eating to children and encourage them to increase their consumption of fruit, vegetables and milk.
The scheme, funded through the European Union's common agricultural policy (CAP), supports the distribution of fruit and vegetables and milk to schools across the EU as part of a wider programme of education about European agriculture and the benefits of healthy eating.
In order to qualify for the support, member states' programmes must meet certain criteria:
- Priority should be given to fresh fruit and vegetables and to milk. However member states may also choose to distribute processed fruit and vegetables such as juices or soups, and dairy products such as yoghurt and cheese, in order to ensure a varied diet and address specific nutritional needs. Other dairy products, such as milk-based drinks, may be allowed, but aid will only be granted for the milk component. Member states are also free to include other agricultural products, such as olives, olive oil and honey, in their educational programmes.
- The choice of products to be distributed in each EU country must be based on health and environmental criteria, seasonality, variety and availability, with priority given to European products. National authorities are also free to encourage local or regional purchasing, organic products, short supply chains, environmental benefits and agricultural quality schemes as part of their overall programme.
- Since the scheme is designed to promote healthy eating, the products distributed to schools must not contain sweeteners or artificial flavour enhancers, and should aim to have no added sugar, salt or fat. Products containing limited quantities of sugar, salt or fat may be allowed if authorised by the relevant national health/nutrition authorities.
Simpler and more effective
Merging the two separate schemes means a reduced administrative and organisational burden and simpler requirements. It also enables member states to focus on just one, six-year strategy, and to submit just one annual request for funding. Monitoring the scheme will still take place through annual reports, as will the overall assessment of the effectiveness of the scheme after five years of implementation.
The educational dimension of the scheme is also reinforced to ensure that the key goals - teaching children of the benefits of healthy eating and helping reconnect them to agriculture – are met. Other related issues such as local food chains, organic farming, sustainable production, food waste, etc. can also be covered through the educational programme.
The total EU budget for the scheme is €250 million per school year, with €150 million for fruit and vegetables, and €100 million for milk.
The allocation of the budget to the member states is based on the number of school children and, for milk, on the take-up of previous schemes.
The budget has a specific line for fruit and vegetables and another for milk, to take into account the differences between those products and their supply chains.
National authorities are free to transfer a proportion (20% or up to 25% in duly justified cases) of the budget allocated from one sector to the other.
A series of information material about the school scheme is available in 23 EU languages – click on the language box after the link and pick the language of your choice.