The number of children achieving their 5 A DAY target has increased by 13% in 2 years according to a report out by the UK Department of Health. The Further Evaluation of The School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme, launched in the week when millions of children are about to begin a new school year, shows that the scheme is working and could contribute to a reduction of heart disease, stroke and cancer later in life.
Figures show that the number of children achieving 5 A DAY has increased from 27% in March 2004 to 44% in November 2006 and the number of portions consumed has also increased to a point where on average 50% of children in the scheme are close to achieving their 5 A DAY target.
Overall there has been significant increases in the consumption of fruit and vegetables since the last evaluation carried out 2 years ago, and from the baseline measured in March 2004 before the Scheme was introduced into the schools included in this study.
It appears that the most significant factor in the increase in fruit and vegetables consumed between November 2004 and November 2006 are improvements to school meals.
Health Minister, Ben Bradshaw said:
“Children eating more fruit and vegetables each day and reaching their 5 A DAY is excellent news.
“The SFVS is important in underpinning the Government’s commitment to healthy eating in schools. It provides an opportunity for children to try out new foods particularly vegetables, and for them to become accustomed to eating them as part of their daily diet.
“Several surveys now point to a significant rise in fruit and vegetable consumption across all sectors of the population linked to increased awareness of eating 5 A DAY and the importance of a healthy diet.
“We now need to look at the potential for exploiting the opportunities provided by the Scheme to support healthy eating initiatives in schools and engage school communities in the wider strategy to tackle obesity and ensure that when children leave the scheme they continue to eat their 5 A DAY.”
The report is good news for the School Food Trust. The evidence is that improvements to school meals means children are in practice being given more opportunities to eat vegetables. Children eating school meals are more likely to achieve their 5 A DAY than those bringing packed lunches. Those eating school dinners also eat less snacks than children who bring packed lunches.
Beverly Hughes, Minister for Children, Young People and Families, said:
“If we are to tackle obesity and get children interested in fruit and vegetables we have to start young. That is why this scheme is so important. I’m pleased to see that school meals are having an impact on diet and new tougher regulations coming in this week will mean that young people can no longer buy fizzy drinks, chocolate bars and crisps in tuck shops or vending machines in schools. Junk food is now off the menu throughout the school day.”
Judy Hargadon, Chief Executive, School Food Trust said:
“We are delighted that the efforts to increase the number of children eating 5 A Day are working so well. This demonstrates that a coordinated and consistent approach to improving children’s health across the school day is resulting in more children getting a balanced and varied diet.”