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Free Fruit Schemes

Volume 401: debated on Friday 14 March 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what recent communication he has had with the organisers of free fruit schemes for schools; [99740](2) what plans he has to increase the take-up of free fruit schemes in British schools; [99739](3) how many schools in the United Kingdom are participating in free fruit schemes. [99741]

I have been asked to reply.The Government have made a commitment to introduce a National School Fruit Scheme for four to six-year-olds across England from 2004. The scheme is being introduced through large scale region wide pilots in 2002–03 and 2003–04 with funding from the New Opportunities Fund. The scheme has been introduced in the West Midlands and London and is currently being introduced across the North West.The scheme is voluntary for schools but our aim is to encourage all eligible schools to take part. The total number of schools currently participating is currently 4,411; around 88 per cent. of those eligible. This means that around 600,000 children are receiving free fruit each school day.The total number of participating schools will increase as the scheme is expanded to new regions. In regions where the scheme has already been introduced, regional five-a-day co-ordinators and school fruit area co-ordinators are working with regional and local colleagues in health and education to encourage take up of the scheme by all eligible schools. The Department of Health has regular communication with the five a day and school fruit co-ordinators.There are a number of locally funded projects which provide free fruit to schoolchildren outside the scope of the National School Fruit Scheme in England, although there is no information held centrally on how many schools or children are participating in such schemes.As health is a devolved matter the Department of Health has responsibility for England only. However, officials have regular contact with their counterparts working on similar schemes in the devolved Administrations.