The European Commission has published a proposal bringing together two currently separate school schemes, the School Milk Scheme and the School Fruit Scheme under a joint framework.
In a context of declining consumption among children for these products, the aim is to address poor nutrition more effectively, to reinforce the educational elements of the programmes and to contribute to fight against obesity. With the slogan “Eat well – feel good”, this enhanced scheme from farm to school will put greater focus on educational measures to improve children’s awareness of healthy eating habits, the range of farm produce available, as well as sustainability, environmental and food waste issues.
Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Cioloş, said: “With the changes proposed today, we want to build on the existing schemes, to reverse the downward trend in consumption and raise awareness among children of the potential benefits of these products. This is an important measure for bringing about sustained changes in children’s eating habits and improving awareness of important challenges that society faces. I also hope that is will be a great opportunity to strengthen links between the farming community and children, their parents and teachers, especially in urban areas.”
The new scheme will operate under a joint legal and financial framework, improving and streamlining the administrative requirements under the two existing schemes. Having this single framework will reduce the management and organisational burden for national authorities, schools and suppliers and make the scheme more efficient. Participation in the scheme will be voluntary for member states, which will also have flexibility to choose the products they wish to distribute.
As already programmed in last year’s deal on future EU spending, the new scheme, once agreed, will have a budget of €230m per school year (€150m for fruit and vegetables and €80m for milk). This compares with a budget of €197m (€122m and €75m respectively) in the 2014 budget. The proposal, which will now be submitted to the European Parliament and to the Council, builds on the findings of evaluation reports and the public consultation that was carried out in 2013 in the context of the Impact Assessment process.
The school milk scheme was set up in 1977 and the school fruit scheme in 2009. Both programmes benefit nearly 30 million children every year (over 20 million for the milk scheme and 8,5 million for the school fruit scheme). The need for these schemes seems even more relevant today, in the light of the declining trend in the medium-term fruit & Vegetable and milk consumption and emerging nutrition challenges.
In most countries children’s consumption of fruits and vegetables is declining and remains below the recommended daily intake. Drinking milk consumption is also declining and children’s consumption is shifting towards highly processed products. Overweight and obesity are real concerns: in 2010 the World Health Organisation estimated that around one in three children between six and nine in the EU are overweight or obese. This trend is increasing quickly: estimates for 2008 were one in four.