The Fruit in Schools (FIS) initiative begins this week and will see over 110,000 children across 566 schools and kura provided with a healthy snack each school day.
The World Health Organisation has recognised the scheme's pivotal role in supporting New Zealand children's well-being for over 17 years. It is funded by Te Whatu Ora, managed by United Fresh and supported by the 5+ A Day Charitable Trust.
"It's no secret that families throughout Aotearoa are doing it tough this year with cost-of-living challenges and the recent floods. FIS is a great way to ensure the healthy kai grown on orchards and farms around the country gets to where it's most needed," said David Smith, Chair of the Trust.
"We produce some of the highest quality fresh produce in the world, and the fresh fruit and vegetables that tamariki receive through FIS provide vital dietary nutrients for growing bodies and minds."
Nelson's Victoria Primary is one of the many schools enrolled in the programme.
"We are hugely grateful for the Fruit in Schools. Our school has been hit hard by COVID, and it is a huge relief to provide fruit to our students, which we know is an excellent source of essential vitamins and helps build their immune systems. We love being able to promote fruit as a healthy snack," said Ashleigh Della Bosca, a Victoria Primary Representative.
The initiative also provides free curriculum-linked resources in English and Te Reo to promote healthy eating and teach students how to grow their own produce.
"Having a variety of fruit to chop up and eat has helped teach fractions this term - a practical component. Also, as we are a free lunch school, most children no longer bring morning tea and instead eat fruit at this time, which minimises the amount of junk food they eat. Healthy, happy children will always positively affect our students' learning and attitude in the classroom."
"Around 80 percent of FIS schools also participate in the Ministry of Education's Ka Ora, Ka Ako – Healthy School Lunches. Feedback from schools shows these initiatives work well together. For example, many schools have provided feedback that tamariki are more engaged with their learning as the nourishment they receive from FIS at morning tea and Ka Ora, Ka Ako at lunchtime provides the energy they need throughout the school day," said Dr Carolyn Lister, 5+ A Day Trustee.
"Around 80 percent of FIS schools also participate in the Ministry of Education's Ka Ora, Ka Ako – Healthy School Lunches. Feedback from schools shows these initiatives work well together. For example, many schools have provided feedback that tamariki are more engaged with their learning as the nourishment they receive from FIS at morning tea and Ka Ora, Ka Ako at lunchtime provides the energy they need throughout the school day."
"FIS is about so much more than a piece of fresh produce. Nine out of ten principals enrolled in the initiative said FIS led to a sense of equality between students regardless of their family circumstances, and 83 percent of principals said their children's overall health would decline if FIS ended."
"We also know that the role-modelling of eating a variety of healthy kai together at school has much wider benefits for tamariki and their whānau and influences long-term changes. Our research found that 70 percent of parents said that their child liked eating fruit more because of FIS, and 37 percent said they like eating vegetables more."