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The School Fruit and Veg Scheme must be reinstated

Fruit and veg

School Fruit and Veg Scheme Confirmed to Return – 16th July

Public Health Minister Jo Churchill has confirmed that the SFVS will return in the autumn. We welcome this news that ensures all children aged 4 to 7 have access to fresh fruit and veg.

The reinstatement of the scheme now offers an opportunity to review and improve the scheme.

The COVID crisis has highlighted the importance of robust supply chains and we believe that the SFVS should support this by directing more British, local and organic produce into schools.

We are continuing to call for the scheme to align with these wider food supply and sustainability key issues - now more than ever, a healthy, sustainable diet is crucial to public and environmental health. More updates to come.

The School Fruit and Veg Scheme Suspension

At the beginning of March, the Government suspended the School Fruit and Veg Scheme (SFVS) due to Covid-19 and delayed confirming when it would be reinstated, despite the question being asked repeatedly in Parliament.

Parents, teachers and schools were paying out of their own pocket to provide fruit and veg for school children after the Government suspended the scheme. Despite some challenges, the scheme offers free fruit and veg to all children aged 4 to 7 and for some children the school day is the only time they get fresh fruit or veg all day. Halting the scheme posed risks to children’s health and widens the food inequality gap.

Soil Association’s Food for Life surveyed schools, parents and the wider community in June on their views on the suspension of the scheme. We found that 99 percent respondents said that they were concerned about the scheme’s suspension and thought that children would be eating less fruit and veg as a result.

One in three respondents said that their school had put contingency measures in place, including: asking parents for donations, paying for fruit and vegetables from the school budget, asking the school caterer to front the costs and even asking teachers to bring in fruit from home.

One respondent said: “Our Early Years lead is buying fruit with her own money to make sure the children still get a healthy snack. Unfortunately, there are no spare funds in school budget due to extra outlays related to Covid-19 and government underfunding.”

75 percent of respondents thought the scheme should be providing more locally sourced fruit and veg, supporting local farmers and traders to recover from the impacts of Covid-19.

One respondent said: “It is vital that we stimulate the local economy after Covid-19.” Another said: “It just makes sense, keep it local and seasonal. Surely this is part of teaching children about food and where it comes from, and it could be more environmentally friendly.”

Soil Association and other supporting organisations wrote to Children’s Minister Vicky Ford to ask for urgent clarity on when the scheme might be reinstated. Their letter said “The ongoing suspension of the School Fruit and Veg Scheme poses risks to children’s health. We ask the Minister to provide urgent clarity on when the scheme will be reinstated, along with a commitment to reviewing the specification with the aim of getting more British produce into the supply chain"

Parents themselves called for the scheme to be reinstated, launching an online petition.