The Fruit and Vegetables in Schools (FIS) initiative supplies fresh seasonal produce to over 100,000 children from low decile primary and intermediate schools.
Funded by New Zealand’s Ministry of Health, run by United Fresh and supported by the 5+ A Day Charitable Trust, FIS has provided over 24m pieces to 550 different schools across the country.
The initiative aims to improve health and education outcomes for children who may not have regular access to fresh fruit and vegetables.
Bruce Young, Principal of Holy Cross School in Papatoetoe, said benefits of the initiative are there for everyone to see.
“Children are more engaged at school, they are less likely to get sick, and it teaches them about health and nutrition. Handing out a crisp carrot or juicy orange helps fill young bellies and provides support to parents who are struggling to feed their families on low incomes.”
It has also had a positive effect on reducing cases of impetigo (school sores) according to Young, “The fruit and vegetables seem to have definitely contributed to getting rid of that. The children are also more open to trying different sorts of fruit and vegetables.”
Chairperson of the 5+ A Day Charitable Trust, David Smith, said support from parents has been heartening.
“Eighty percent of parents would like to see the initiative extended to all decile three primary and intermediate schools.”
“We know improving wellbeing and equity are important goals for the current Government. We believe this initiative is an excellent and affordable way to achieve both of these outcomes,” said Smith.
Established in 2007, the 5+ A Day Charitable Trust is funded by voluntary contributions from New Zealand’s pan produce industry and provides free curriculum-linked resources to help promote healthy eating and teach students how to grow their own fruit and vegetables.
Government funding for the FIS contract is due to roll over in 2020, with 5+ A Day keen to see the initiative continue.