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European Agriculture Ministers back Schools Fruit Scheme

29 October, 2008 - by Martina Anderson MEP


Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has welcomed the support of the European Council of Agriculture Ministers for a School Fruit Scheme that will both provide free fruit and vegetables to schoolchildren and support the local farming industry.

The Agriculture & Fisheries Council, meeting in Luxembourg yesterday gave its support to the €90m new School Fruit Scheme to the Council. The measure is to be voted in the European Parliament in November and to start next year.

Ms de Brún first called for the introduction of a Schools Fruit Scheme in September 2007 when she welcomed the update of the EU milk-for-children initiative to provide school children with milk across Europe.

Welcoming the decision of Europe Agriculture Ministers to support the new scheme Ms de Brún said:

"This proposal will allow EU member states to develop a School Fruit Scheme to include the free distribution of fruit (and/or vegetables) to schools. It will also allow states that have fruit programmes to extend these schemes.

"This can make a real impact on the eating habits of our children and also have a long-term benefit for our fruit and vegetable producers. Obesity and poor diets have never been such a problem as they are now and EU action will be very welcome.

"The provision of EU aid under a Schools Fruit Scheme will both meet EU objectives in relation to CAP and this farming sector but would also provide a policy and funding framework for initiatives aimed at increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in the diet of children at a stage where their lifelong eating habits are formed.

"As Minister for Health, and lead Minister for the Investing for Health strategy in the last power-sharing Executive, I oversaw the launch of a pilot scheme which included fresh fruit for children. I am convinced that this new initiative can prove to be very beneficial.

"The European Commission will also host a major conference in Brussels in December to promote the scheme, in recognition of its potential impact on health and education as well as agriculture. This will include workshops on the Supply chain: from producer to school; purchase and distribution; local versus centralised sourcing; effective controls with a minimum of red tape ; on Communication: awareness raising on obesity; the role of parents, teachers and public administrations; internet portal; on Accompanying measures: providing free fruit and vegetables is not enough; a joint venture between agriculture, public health and education; and on Evaluation: sharing best practices; monitoring and reporting; learning from experience " ENDS

Note to Editors

The European Commission has proposed to establish a European Union-wide scheme to provide free fruit and vegetables to school children. European funds worth €90 million every year would pay for the purchase and distribution of fresh fruit and vegetables to schools, and this money would be matched by funds in those Member States which chose to make use of the programme.

This is the latest stage in the Commission's efforts to improve health and nutrition, as set out in the 'Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity and related health issues'.

The School Fruit Scheme aims to encourage good eating habits in young people, which studies show tend to be carried on into later life. Besides providing free fruit and vegetables, the scheme would require participating Member States to set up national strategies including educational and awareness-raising initiatives and the sharing of best practice. An estimated 22 million children in the EU are overweight. More than 5 million these are obese and this figure is expected to rise by 400,000 every year. Improved nutrition can play an important part in combating this problem.

More information on the Scheme available on the internet at:

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/markets/fruitveg/sfs/index_en.htm

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