Agriculture MEPs promote healthy eating in schools

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The EU and its member states must invest more effort and money in promoting healthy eating and the consumption of local foodstuffs amongst children, the European Parliament’s agriculture committee said when it amended draft rules on schemes to provide fruit, vegetables and milk in schools.

“A healthy and balanced diet is the foundation of good health and yet the consumption of fruit, vegetables and milk has been declining across the EU with many negative consequences for Europeans. The aim of the new rules is to do more in our schools – not only to provide our children with healthy foodstuffs, but to better educate them about healthy eating habits,” said Marc Tarabella (S&D, BE), who drafted the agriculture committee’s resolution. The committee’s amendments to the legislation were adopted by 32 votes to six, with seven abstentions.

More emphasis on education, more eligible products and fairer funding

The agriculture committee endorsed plans to merge two schemes which are currently separate – one providing milk for schoolchildren and the other fruit – and to extend the educational measures already included in the fruit scheme to cover milk as well.

The committee also wants:

to extend the list of foodstuffs eligible for EU funding to include local milk products with proven beneficial effects for children’s health, such as yoghurt, cheese and curd (provided they are not flavoured and do not contain added fruits, nuts or cocoa);

member states to earmark 10% – 20% of the EU funding they receive to educational activities, designed for example to promote healthy eating habits and sustainable production, and including visits to farms and the occasional distribution of local specialities such as processed fruit and vegetables (unless they contain added sugar, fat, salt or sweeteners), honey, olives or dried fruits;

an additional €20 million a year for the measures covering milk, bringing annual funding for milk and milk products up to €100 million, with €150 million for fruit and vegetables;

a fairer distribution of EU funds among member countries, by setting two core criteria for the entire scheme (the proportion of six to ten-year-old children in the population and the degree of development of the region within the member state). For milk, the historical use of milk-scheme funds would also be taken into account for the first six years of the scheme and would be balanced with a new, minimum annual amount of EU aid per child.

Next steps

The set of amendments to the draft law as approved by the Agriculture committee should be scrutinised by the full House during the 27 May plenary session in Brussels.

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