Ireland to receive €3.27 million from EU school fruit, veg and milk scheme

Ireland is to receive almost €3.27 million from the EU school fruit, vegetables and milk scheme for the 2020/2021 school year.

The scheme, which brings together the old school fruit and vegetables and school milk schemes, aims to promote healthy eating habits among children.

It will include the distribution of fruit, vegetables and milk products in schools, as well as dedicated educational programmes to teach pupils about the importance of good nutrition and to explain how food is produced.

European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski said: “In the current context, it is even more important for children across the EU to know and understand where our food comes from.

We can be proud of the nutritious, safe and high-quality food that our farmers produce. Thanks to the EU school scheme, children can learn about nutrition and agriculture, while also adopting healthy eating habits.

“We have taken measures to make sure that this year’s scheme takes into account that schools had to close across Europe because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“But it is important that we continue to look ahead, prepare the future and send a strong sign that life will carry on once we have collectively turned this page,” the commissioner said.

Along with next year’s budget, the commission also published a summary report on the uptake of the school scheme in the 2018/19 school year.

During that year, around 155,000 schools participated in the scheme with more than 71 million kilograms of fruits and vegetables and 167 million litres of milk being distributed to European children, accompanied by a wide range of educational activities, supported by €192 million from the EU budget.

In Ireland, 1,169 schools – mainly primary – participated in the scheme in the 2018/19 school year while a total of 257,868kg of fruit and vegetables and just over one and a half million litres of milk were distributed to the 161,062 children involved.

This year’s implementation of the current school scheme (for school year 2019/20) is affected by the closure of schools across the EU due to the current coronavirus pandemic.

The European Commission has clarified that the ongoing crisis can be recognised as a “force majeure” reason.

This allows EU countries which recognise it as a case of “force majeure” to reimburse suppliers for perishable goods (fruit, vegetables and dairy products) that were meant to be distributed to schools participating in the scheme.

Products may also be donated to hospitals, charity organisations and food banks or similar, to reach those in need, the commission added.