The European Commission has announced that a redistribution of aid under the EU school scheme will see €2.9 million allocated towards catering for the needs of displaced Ukrainian children in EU schools. This follows the publication of a regulation on 1 June which invited Member States to review their requests for aid under the school scheme for the coming school year, which will run from 1 August 2022 to 31 July 2023.
The EU school scheme aims to promote healthy eating and balanced diets through the distribution of fruit, vegetables and milk products to schoolchildren, while also providing educational programmes on agriculture and healthy eating habits. The total budget of the scheme is €220.8 million per school year, consisting of up to €130.6 million for fruit and vegetables and up to €90.1 million for milk. This is broken down into national allocations which are fixed by the Commission based on the Member States' requests.
The invitation for Member States to review their requests came in light of the unprecedented situation brought about by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which calls for solidarity between Member States to ease the burden on those at the forefront of catering for displaced Ukrainian children. In June, Member States submitted either the additional amount being requested under the scheme, or the amount of their national allocation that was not required.
The Commission decided on new allocations based on the notifications received from Member States. Any unused amounts submitted by Member States were redirected to the countries welcoming the highest number of Ukrainian children.
Consumption of fresh fruit, vegetables and milk in the EU does not meet international or national nutritional recommendations. Meanwhile, consumption of processed food is on the rise. Unhealthy diets, together with low physical activity, result in obesity.
To help combat this, the EU school scheme supports the distribution of milk, fruit and vegetables to millions of schoolchildren across the EU, from nursery to secondary school. The scheme also provides dedicated educational programmes to teach pupils about the importance of healthy eating habits and to explain how food is produced.
In 2020-21, around 15 million schoolchildren benefitted from the scheme in the EU. Member States can decide how they implement the scheme. This includes the type of products children will receive or the theme of the educational measures put in place. However, the choice of products distributed must be based on health and environmental considerations, seasonability, availability and variety.
The Commission recently launched a review of the scheme as part of its Farm to Fork strategy. Everyone is welcome to contribute to the consultation until 28 July 2022 to shape how the scheme can be reformed in order to better promote healthy and sustainable diets.
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