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Agriculture and rural development
Raksts par jaunumiem23 novembris 2022Lauksaimniecības un lauku attīstības ģenerāldirektorāts

Implementation of EU school fruit, vegetable and milk scheme impacted by the Covid pandemic

Raspberries, soy beans, milk

Today, the European Commission published an evaluation support study of the EU school fruit, vegetables and milk scheme. The school scheme supports the distribution of agricultural products to schoolchildren, from nursery to secondary school, as well as educational measures to increase the consumption of these products and shape healthier diets. The report shows that the share of children receiving both fruits and vegetables and milk/milk products has increased in the evaluation period from 40.2% in 2017/18 to 54.6% in 2020/21 and that a larger variety of products are distributed, indicating that more children benefit from a more varied supply of products.

Most of the children participating in the EU school scheme belong to the six to ten-year-old age group (average of 71% over the first 4 school years). The evaluation support study adds that the existing scheme fulfils its main objectives of increasing children's consumption of selected agricultural products and improving their eating habits. The analysis covered the implementation period of the EU school scheme, from its entry into force as of 1 August 2017 over four school years (from 2017/2018 to 2020/2021). The implementation of the EU school scheme has been severely influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic’s outbreak in March 2020. The differences observed among EU countries are mainly the result of the control measures and public health policies deployed by national governments to face the pandemic. Notably, the increasing trend of participation in the fruit and vegetable school scheme reversed when the pandemic started. The uptake of the milk scheme had been gradually declining even before Covid.

Quantities of products distributed adapted to the decrease in the number of children participating in the scheme as of spring 2020. This means that total distributed quantities of fruit and vegetables decreased by about 22% between 2017/2018 and 2020/2021 (after an increase of 3.7% between the first and the second year of the current scheme), while total milk quantities decreased by about 38% and constantly throughout the analysed period. In addition to the difficulties in the supply of the selected products for distribution during the pandemic, other factors weighed in, such as national decisions regarding the frequency of distribution, the duration of the distribution, the average portion size, and the composition of the products distributed.

In its recommendations, the evaluation support study outlines that even better results might be attained by involving teachers more, as well as other education professionals and parents/families. Other recommendations include developing a specific monitoring system for organic products distributed as part of the scheme and raise the awareness of participating schools to reduce food waste during the distribution of products.

The European Commission will propose in 2023 a review of the legislative framework of the EU school scheme, as part of the Farm to Fork strategy. Today’s evaluation support study of the EU school fruit, vegetables and milk scheme, as well the public consultation, open from May to July 2022, the Eurobarometer survey and other studies, will feed into an impact assessment, which will present and analyse the policy options for a review of the scheme.

Background

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 measures 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. The choice of products distributed must be based on health and environmental considerations, seasonability, availability and variety. EU countries may encourage local, short-supply chain, organic and quality scheme products if they wish. Educational measures can include lessons but can also help fund farm visits, school gardens, tasting and cooking workshops, theme days and games.

The total EU budget for the scheme, in the period 2017-23, was set at €250 million per school year: up to €150 million for fruit and vegetables and up to €100 million for milk. In July 2022, the European Commission announced that a redistribution of aid under the EU school scheme allocate €2.9 million towards catering for the needs of displaced Ukrainian children in EU schools.

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