Consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables and of milk in the European Union does not meet international or national nutritional recommendations. On the other hand, consumption of processed food, which is often high in added sugar, salt, fat or additives is on the rise.
Unhealthy diets, together with low physical activity, result in obesity. This is why the EU takes action to help children follow a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Applicable since 1 August 2017, the EU school fruit, vegetables and milk scheme combines two previous schemes (the school fruit and vegetables scheme and the school milk scheme) under a single legal framework for more efficiency and an enhanced focus on health and educational. The scheme supports the distribution of products, educational measures and information measures.
The scheme supports the distribution of fruit, vegetables, milk and certain milk products to schoolchildren, from nursery to secondary school. EU countries approve a list of products (in collaboration with their health and nutrition authorities) which will help achieve the schemes objective of helping children to follow a healthy diet.
Priority is for fresh fruit and vegetables and for plain milk. In order to support a varied diet and/or specific nutritional needs, EU countries may also make processed fruit and vegetables such as juices and soups and certain milk products such as yoghurt and cheese, available. Additionally, under stricter conditions, milk-based drinks may be included.
Seasonality, variety, availability, health and environmental aspects underpin the choice of products. EU countries may encourage local, short-supply chain, organic and quality scheme products if they wish. Generally, no added sugar, salt, fat and sweeteners or artificial flavours are allowed. The health and nutrition authorities in EU countries may allow, as an exception, limited quantities of added salt, fat and, for milk products, sugar.
The scheme also supports educational measures. This can include lessons but can also help fund farm visits, school gardens, tasting and cooking workshops, theme days and games.
Their objective is to reconnect children to agriculture and teach them about healthy eating habits. Issues such as local food chains, organic farming, sustainable production or food waste may also be covered. Educational activities may also involve teachers and parents as they are role models for children’s healthy eating habits and lifestyles.
Funding is also available for information activities to ensure the visibility of the scheme, and monitoring and evaluation to account for the proper functioning of the scheme.
The total EU budget for the scheme, in the period 2017-23, is €250 million per school year of which up to €150 million is for fruit and vegetables and up to €100 million for milk. This budget is broken down by country based on the number of children, the level of regional development and, for milk, on how the budget was previously used.
Each country may transfer part of its EU budget for fruit and vegetables to milk, or vice versa, depending on its priorities and needs. It may also request only part of its budget, or conversely more than its budget. The Commission adopts a decision to fix the EU budget by country for each school year.
School scheme by country
Countries that wish to participate in the scheme draw up a strategy, at national or regional level, covering a period of 6 years.
Each country strategy outlines the objectives (such as an increase of fruit and vegetables consumption to meet the recommended five portions per day), the beneficiaries (e.g. children in primary schools), the products, the education activities and arrangements for the implementation of the scheme.
Each participating country is required to monitor and evaluate the scheme. Monitoring reports cover each school year.
Evaluation reports cover five school years and will be available from 1 March 2023.
The Commission does not approve the countries’ strategies, monitoring, and evaluation reports. It makes them public, together with providing a contact point in each country for information on how to participate and details on implementation.
The following regulations set out the EU school fruit, vegetables and milk scheme: