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Free fruit and veg initiative should be expanded - Ferris

25 January, 2007

Sinn Féin's Agriculture spokesperson Martin Ferris TD has welcomed the announcement by EU Farm Commissioner Marianne Fischer Boel yesterday of a new scheme to divert free fruit and vegetables into schools and other public institutions. Deputy Ferris pointed out that Sinn Féin had proposed a more comprehensive scheme in it's pre-budget submission in November, and called on the Government to build a much larger programme aimed at tackling food poverty in Ireland.

The Kerry North TD said: "In our pre-budget submission, published in November, Sinn Féin argued for the introduction of a weekly 'farmers box' of fruit and vegetables to be delivered to low income families and disadvantaged groups suffering from food poverty. We pointed out that as far back as 1996 the Nutrition Advisory Group proposed pilot projects for low income families to provide sufficient food to meet their requirements.

"Food poverty is a little understood and ignored aspect of modern Irish society. The report, Food Poverty and Policy, published by Combat Poverty, Crosscare and Saint Vincent de Paul in 2004, found that 10% of the population of the state are at risk of food poverty, rising to 15% of children. The people most likely to suffer food poverty are those on low incomes. They eat less well and tend to spend relatively more on food, but not on healthy options, and have difficulties accessing an adequate variety of good food.

"The proposal from the EU yesterday is to be welcomed, and we hope the Government will respond positively to it. But it must be seen as the beginning of something much more comprehensive. Addressing the problems of fruit and vegetable deficiency at an early stage can reduce health problems later in life and support our farmers."


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