01 Aug 2017 --- A new EU school fruit, vegetables and milk scheme has been put in place today, ready to be implemented across the union on the first day of the 2017/2018 school year. Aimed at promoting health eating habits among children, the scheme will include the distribution of fruit, vegetables and milk products along with dedicated educational programs to teach students about the importance of good nutrition and explain how food is produced, according to a European Commission press release.
Currently, 24 member states take part in the old School Fruit and Vegetables Scheme and 28 in the old School Milk Scheme. Last year, around 20 million children benefited from the milk scheme, and around 11.7 million children benefited from the fruit and vegetable scheme.
From today, the two current schemes will be brought together under a single legal framework. The new rules aim at “greater efficiency, more focused support and an enhanced educational dimension.” Although it is optional to participate, all 28 EU member states have indicated that they will take part in the initiative in the 2017/2018 school year.
Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, says: “I am very pleased that the new school scheme will be introduced tomorrow. The scheme provides valuable support to millions of European schoolchildren and thousands of farmers in every member state. Such support has proven particularly important for farmers in recent years, and the increased funding will enhance the value of this support.
“In addition, the new scheme meets my priority of simplification through the integration of the former school milk and vegetable schemes,” Hogan adds. “Finally, I am happy to be involved with an initiative with Commissioners Andriukaitis and Navracsics to promote a healthy lifestyle and I am convinced that this scheme has a valuable part to play.”
Fresh fruit, vegetables and drinking milk will be given as a priority to school children as part of the scheme. Processed products such as soup, fruit compote, juice, yoghurt and cheese may also be distributed if this choice is approved by the national health authorities. No added, sugar, salt and fat are allowed unless national health authorities permit limited amounts.
Besides deciding on the exact way to put the scheme in place, like the inclusion of thematic educational measures and other agricultural products, member states also have the option to top up the EU aid by using national aid to pay for the scheme.
This choice of products will be based on health and environmental considerations, seasonality, variety and availability with priority to EU products. Member states are allowed to encourage local or regional purchasing, organic products, short supply chains, environmental benefits and agricultural quality schemes.
Of the €250 million of EU funding agreed for the 2017/2018 school year, roughly €150 million will be allocated for fruit and vegetables and €100 million for milk.
The new school scheme forms part of Commissioner Hogan's simplification agenda, according to the European Commission press release. It “allows for greater synergies and efficiencies in the implementation of the new scheme, and complements other measures in the areas of health and education policies.”
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