A €1bn increase in the budget of the EU School Scheme is needed to ensure every school child receives one piece of fruit or vegetable per day. Freshfel Europe stressed the value of continued implementation as well as areas in need of improvement to ensure the equal, efficient, and educational distribution of fresh fruit and vegetables to European school children. On 24 November Freshfel Europe’s General Delegate, Philippe Binard, was one of the keynote speakers at the conference ‘An EU School Scheme Fit for the Future’ hosted by the European Commission.
EU consumption of fresh produce is still well below the WHO minimum recommended daily intake of 400g per day. The lowest are among children and young adults, many eating only 200g per day, sometimes even much less. Obesity rates among children remain extremely worrying and unhealthy diets increase the risk of obesity epidemics and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD), including cardio-vascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. To reverse the negative trends, it is imperative to educate the youngest by introducing them to the taste, texture and diversity of fruit and vegetables.
Binard stated: “It is important that the School Scheme primarily stick to its health and nutritional value. Educating the youngest is key to reversing the obesity rate and moving children towards a healthier diet for their future. The cost of social security due to unhealthy diets is at least twice the value of the food market.” Today, close to 17 Mio children have access to the School Scheme, based on a policy with a €130 Mio EU budget, sometimes topped up by additional resources from national budgets. The EU budget allows for the yearly distribution of around 70 000 tons of fresh fruit and vegetables every school term.
Freshfel Europe shared recommendations for the Scheme within the upcoming reform. It must include a diversity of products and avoid homogenic selections. Children must be introduced to, and allowed to discover, new products. This also entails spreading knowledge on a diversity of production methods and origins, educating children further on local and non-local products and differences between organic and other production methods.
The educational part of the Scheme is of extra importance. Mr Binard added “The scheme should not be based on exclusivity or be diluted in to many criteria around sustainability. To be effective, the program need to secure the distribution of fresh fruit and vegetables in school within a reinforced schedule to be secured every day of the whole school term. The need to significantly increase the budget to match the expected outreach and ambitions of the Scheme. In this respect a €1 billion budget would be needed.”
Raising awareness of the Scheme and involving all stakeholders are other key recommendations. School management, teachers and parents need to be more involved to better capitalize the positive benefits of the scheme.