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Free Fruit Scheme

Volume 401: debated on Tuesday 18 March 2003

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If he will make a statement on the operation of he free fruit scheme in schools. [103208]

We are committed to introducing a national school fruit scheme that will entitle four to six-year-olds to free fruit daily from 2004. The scheme is currently being rolled out region by region with funding from the New Opportunities Fund. By July, the scheme will be reaching about 1 million children.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. When I was an Agriculture Minister, I helped to launch the scheme and was delighted by the enthusiasm for it in some inner-city schools. Given that the House is so full, I am glad that so many people are present to hear me express my hope that the scheme will be extended to Gateshead, Sunderland and the north-east as soon as possible.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that the scheme is hugely popular. About 88 per cent. of eligible schools have already taken it up and we are looking to roll it out to other regions over the next few school terms. I have visited school fruit projects in Newham and Runcorn, where children have hugely welcomed the apples, pears, bananas and oranges that they are getting every day. The scheme is making a real impact not only on their health, but on the curriculum. We are using it as a way of engaging children in improving their health and nutrition, and extending to their families ideas about getting school fruit, a healthy diet and the best possible start in life—something that should be available to all our children.