The EU School Fruit, Vegetables and Milk scheme resumes this month and Dublin MEP Brian Hayes says all primary schools should register to ensure every pupil benefits.
“This scheme includes the distribution of fruit, vegetables and milk products, as well as dedicated educational programmes to teach pupils about the importance of good nutrition and to explain how food is produced,” he explained.
“For the coming 2018-2019 academic year, the EU has allocated €1,757,779 to promote fruit and vegetables, while €900,393 has been allocated to promote milk and other dairy products. These allocations are based on the number of school children in Ireland and, for milk, on the take-up of previous schemes. This is supported by additional Government funding.
“Half of Irish children aged between 5 and 12 years old are not eating the daily requirements for fresh fruit and vegetables or milk. This scheme is there to help schools assist by distributing these healthy food products, while delivering educational programmes about how food is produced and the importance of good nutrition.
“The additional funds available will see Ireland completing the Food Dudes Boost programme and running a pilot of the next model of implementation. To date, 3100 primary schools have participated in this programme, which is based on positive role models, repeated tasting and rewards.
“However, the number of schools participating in the School Milk Scheme has been declining. A major barrier to participation on this has been identified as the charge levied to parents. Participation levels in schools which did not charge a parental levy were on average 400% greater than schools that did charge a parental levy. A pilot model was introduced in last year’s academic year which eliminated this charge in order to encourage children to avail of portions of milk, yoghurt and cheese. I am hopeful that this year’s EU funding allocation for this programme will see this pilot of free dairy produce rolled out on a broader basis around the country.
“I encourage all school Principals to register their schools to participate in these schemes. It is never too early to learn about the production and health benefits of good food, and this learning should be happening in the classroom, as well as at home.