The scheme, agreed by the Council in 2008 and fully supported by the European Parliament, is an important EU-wide initiative providing fruit and vegetables to schoolchildren. To date, the EU School Fruit Scheme’s evaluation shows an adequate and necessary contribution to more balanced nutrition in the vulnerable target group. Small modifications in the implementation of the EU School Fruit Scheme will further increase and deepen the Scheme’s impact.
The main objective of the EU School Fruit Scheme is to increase the low consumption of fruit and vegetables among children by increasing the share of these products in their diets at a time when their eating habits are being formed.
The European Commission’s evaluation of the implementation of the EU School Fruit Scheme shows some particularly good points that should be strengthened and promoted.
1. The European School Fruit Scheme contributes to changing eating habits while increasing fruit and vegetables consumption and, in addition, affects other nutrition related shortages, such as low carbohydrate and fibre intake or certain vitamin deficits.
2. Compared to the initial school year 2009/10, the scale of the School Fruit Scheme increased significantly and reached in 2010/11 8,146,290 children (equal to 25% of all children in the target group).
3. An additional demand on fruit and vegetables was been created in 2010/11. 24 Member States currently participate in the scheme of which 21 apply a central organisational structure at national level and 3 apply a decentralised structure at regional level (Spain, Belgium and Germany).
4. The EU aid used by the Member States in the school year 2010/2011 was about EUR 55,418,259165, which is only 61.6% of the total available annual EU budget of EUR 90 million, leaving 38.4% of EU funds unused.
5. For the planning period and for coordinating the schemes, the envisaged broad partnership between education, health and agriculture has been accomplished. However, partnerships at school level during the operation of the scheme are less advanced and should be better promoted.
6. Adequate Accompanying Measures are necessary to change eating habits in a sustainable way. Since their impact is highly dependent on the methodological approach, Member States / Regions should be encouraged to pay more attention to the approach used.
7. Offering fruit and vegetables as frequently as possible, but at least 3 times a week seems to be optimal for the effectiveness of the scheme.
8. Since some of the results for children indicate that fruit and vegetables consumption in schools and at home is closely linked, parental consumption is a point of interest for the effectiveness for the scheme. Therefore, and in order to determine the scheme’s indirect impact on parents, further research on the impact on and influence of parental consumption is needed.
9. An increase of the EU funding share (beyond 50% respectively 75%) is recommended as an instrument to expand the School Fruit Scheme’s scale, and thus its impact on eating habits, to achieve the fruit and vegetables intake necessary for adequately protecting children’s health.
10. As socio-economic characteristics seem to have an impact on the effectiveness of the scheme respective target groups should be addressed and children with higher needs especially encouraged to taste and eat fruit and vegetables offered by teachers in school.
11. To increase the relevance of the SFS for the EU fruit and vegetables market it is recommended that a major share of regional fruit and vegetables be used in the distribution programme. The usage of regional products originating in the EU could be enhanced by increasing EU aid, especially for products with high added value e.g. regional or organically grown products.
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