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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » April 26, 2012
Polska... tastes good!
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Success of the School Fruit Scheme
April 26, 2012   
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Ten thousand schools taking part in the program and about 900,000 children eating fresh fruit and vegetables on a regular basis—this is the outcome of the EU’s School Fruit Scheme in Poland.

The aim of the program is to prevent excess weight and obesity among European children by promoting healthy eating habits from children’s earliest years. “It’s worth developing these attitudes in children because the effects are the quickest and most lasting,” said Marek Sawicki, minister of agriculture and rural development, at a conference summing up the campaign’s latest stage.

The European Commission launched the Common Agricultural Policy’s new program called the School Fruit Scheme as of the 2009/2010 school year. The program is 75-percent financed from the EU budget and 25-percent funded from national budgets. The Polish scheme, whose budget in the 2011/2012 school year is close to 12.3 million euros, has the fourth-largest budget among the EU countries taking part in the campaign. In Poland the scheme is targeted at children from primary school grades one to three. The main aim is a long-term change in the eating habits of children and teenagers by increasing the share of fruit and vegetables in their daily diet and promoting healthy nutrition through educational activities at primary schools.

Fruit is a product valued highly by dietitians and nutritionists. Fruit is a source of many vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. It is usually made up of water in 80-90 percent and a small amount of fats (0.1-0.3 percent, excluding nuts). Carbohydrate content varies from 3 to 18 percent while the amount of fiber, which is important in the human diet, ranges from 0.3 to 5.6 percent. Most fruit has a lot of vitamin C as well as provitamin A and small amounts of B vitamins, while lacking vitamin D.

Children taking part in the School Fruit Scheme are given fresh fruit (apples, pears, strawberries), fresh vegetables (carrots, peppers, radishes) and fruit, vegetable or fruit-and-vegetable juice. The fruit, vegetables and juice may not contain any added fats, salt, sugar or other sweeteners. The portion for each child in the scheme contains one fruit product and one vegetable product.

According to the Agricultural Market Agency (ARR), interest in the program in its third year is greater than in previous years. Lucjan Zwolak, vice-president of the ARR, said that the target group of the scheme in the 2011/2012 school year includes more than 1.2 million children from grades one to three. “This school year we will hand out 33 million portions of fruit and vegetables; throughout the scheme’s duration this number will total close to 100 million portions,” Zwolak said.

According to studies carried out by the National Food and Nutrition Institute in Warsaw, the program has caused an increase in the amount of fruit and vegetables children eat; it has increased children’s knowledge on healthy nutrition as well as having a positive impact on changing children’s attitude to eating fruit and vegetables. There have also been some good changes in behaviors related to children’s nutrition in the parents of children taking part in the program. Equally important, the program is appreciated by school principals and teachers.

Summing up the School Fruit Scheme, Minister Sawicki mentioned another EU program run by the ARR: the school milk scheme called Glass of Milk in Poland. “The budget here is more than zl.160 million (including zl.118 million from the national budget and about zl.40 million from the EU), and in this program Poland is first among all the EU countries. Moreover, Glass of Milk is financed in two-thirds from the national budget,” Sawicki said.
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