Under the plan, the Commission would unite the European Union’s separate programmes for promoting fruit and milk consumption among school children, under the slogan ‘Eat well – feel good’. It says that the new scheme will not only boost agricultural interests – milk and fruit represent about 15% of the value of the EU’s agricultural output – but also help improve health and understanding of food waste, and sustainability and environmental issues.
“We want to build on the existing schemes, to reverse the downward trend in consumption and raise awareness among children of the potential benefits of these products,” said Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Cioloş.
The World Health Organisation estimated in 2010 that around one in three EU children aged six to nine was overweight or obese – and the trend has increased rapidly, up from one in four children aged six to nine in 2008. Meanwhile, the Commission noted that children’s fruit and vegetable consumption is declining in most European countries and remains below recommended levels, while milk consumption is also declining and “is shifting towards highly processed products”.
The scheme is backed by €230m in EU funding, including €80m for milk and €150m for fruit and vegetables. It would be up to individual member states to decide on limits for the fat content of milk provided under the programme, while the fruit and vegetable element would include all fresh fruits and vegetables. Participation in the programme would be voluntary for all member states.
“This is an important measure for bringing about sustained changes in children's eating habits and improving awareness of important challenges that society faces,” Cioloşsaid. “I also hope that is will be a great opportunity to strengthen links between the farming community and children, their parents and teachers, especially in urban areas.”
Download the Commission’s proposal here.