EU backs €250m funding for milk, fruit and vegetable school schemes
The new measures will strengthen and boost funding for an EU scheme to provide fruit, vegetables and milk products in schools.
Sharing out the €250m fairly for healthy eating measures is part of the plan, as well as putting an onus on member states to do more to promote healthy eating habits, local food chains, organic farming and fight against food waste.
The educational measure should also better connect children with agriculture through farm visits and the distribution of local specialities such as honey.
Although the agreement still needs to be approved by the European Parliament later this year, markets specialist at the Irish Farmers Journal and Agri Aware board member Phelim O’Neill said it is unlikely to have immediate effect on Irish farmgate prices as the majority of milk produced in Ireland is exported and converted into dairy products and sold outside the EU.
However, he added that “an initiative like this will encourage demand in the next generation of consumers within the EU”.
Marc Tarabella, who steered the legislation through Parliament, said that as milk, fruit and vegetable consumption has declined across the EU, “it is of the utmost importance to strengthen the scheme by increasing its budget”.
The European Parliament also insisted that when produce is distributed in schools, under-consumed, local, fresh products should have priority over processed foods. Member states will be able to distribute processed foods such as soups, juice, yoghurts and cheese, only in addition to fresh fruit and vegetables and milk, or lactose-free milk.
Andy Doyle, tillage specialist at the Irish Farmers Journal described the plans to merge all three schemes for milk, fruit and vegetables as significant and a positive development.
He added that the plans to use all locally produced goods are important for ensuring sustainability for local farmers.