The FINANCIAL -- The new EU school fruit, vegetables and milk scheme will be in place on 1 August, ready to be implemented across the Union as of the first day of the 2017/2018 school year.
Aimed at promoting healthy eating habits among children, the scheme will include 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, according to European Commission.
This single scheme merges and optimises the existing projects that last year reached over 20 million children. Although participation is optional, all 28 Member States indicated they will take part in the initiative in the 2017/2018 school year.
Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said: "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. 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. Processed products such as soup, fruit compotes, juice, yoghurts 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 the national health authorities permit limited quantities.
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 have the option to top up the EU aid with national aid for financing the scheme.
This choice of products shall be based on health and environmental considerations, seasonality, variety and availability with priority to EU products. Member States may encourage local or regional purchasing, organic products, short supply chains, environmental benefits, agricultural quality schemes.
Of the €250 million EU funding agreed for 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. 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.
From 1 August 2017, the two current schemes - the School Fruit and Vegetables Scheme and the School Milk Scheme - will be brought under a single legal framework. The new rules aim at greater efficiency, more focused support and an enhanced educational dimension.
Currently, 24 Member States take part in the old fruit and vegetable scheme and 28 in the old milk scheme. Last year, around 20 million children benefited from the milk scheme and around 11.7 million children from the fruit and vegetables scheme.