The EU's fruit and vegetable scheme for schools is to be merged with the school milk scheme. In the process MEPs have secured additional funding for the programmes which aim to help schools serve children fresh produce. The new joint scheme is to be debated at plenary on Monday 7 March, with members voting on it the following day. In an interview ahead of next week's debate Marc Tarabella, the author of Parliament's report on the issue, has a very simple and familiar message: "An apple a day..."
How will the financing of the programme change?
We have increased the funding for the milk scheme by €20 million per year. We had to rebalance the system in order to give more funding for the new member states, Croatia for example, and not to penalise at the same time other countries that have been using these programmes very well for a long time. We also ensured a fairer distribution of funds via objective criteria, for example the number of children aged from six to ten in a particular country.
Milk and fruit prices have been falling. Could this programme be an opportunity for farmers to put their products on the market at a good price?
The Russian embargo created a lot of problems. The programme could be useful for farmers but we have to bear in mind that there is not a huge amount of money involved; the budget for the fruit and milk scheme amounts to 0.5% of the annual Common Agricultural Policy budget. We need to find other markets but the priority is to increase the internal demand for fruit, vegetables and milk. In 24 of the member states there is a lack of consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables. Increasing internal demand is also very good for health.
More emphasis is to be placed on the educational side of the programme, what will actually happen in schools?
We do not determine the precise actions. Everything is not decided in Brussels, it is up to countries and national authorities to put the educational measures in place. There can, for example, be visits to farms. Children drink milk but they never see how it has been produced. It would be good to create a link between producers and the consumers.
If you were the principal of a school how would the menu look? And what is your own favourite fruit?
In wintertime there would probably be soup on the menu, a vegetable soup for all the children at lunchtime. I myself like to have an apple between breakfast and lunch. An apple a day keeps the doctor away after all...
Parliament's negotiators and the member states have already come to an agreement on the new fruit and milk scheme. The deal now has to be endorsed by the plenary.
For fruit and vegetables: €150 million
For milk and dairy products: €100 million