The scale of the initiative was immense; 44m pieces of fruit or veg served up every year to 2 million children in 18,000 schools across the country. The point of the plan was laudable; to make children healthier, and give them a real appetite for fresh food.
But there is one great problem with the scheme that was launched with such fanfare three years ago; children just won’t eat their greens.
That, at least, is one conclusion to be drawn from a study published today which shows that the government’s intervention has made no difference to children’s nutrition. One critic, who advised the Department of Health that it was unlikely to work, said that making fruit and veg available at school breaktime was no use in a culture in which healthy food was thought to be uncool.
The scheme was launched at an initial cost of £42m and has since been given a further £77m by the Department of Health. Every child aged four to six was to receive a piece of fruit or vegetable every day at school. It was, says the evaluation study published today in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, “the largest scale intervention in English children’s diet since the introduction of free school milk in 1946”.
But today’s study of 3,703 children in the north of England aged four to six, who were given free fruit between February and December 2004, found that by the end of the period their diet was unchanged.
Read the full story in the Guardian