Sustainability in the Fresh Produce Aisle

children eating lunch

This February, over 110,000 tamariki in 566 schools and kura across Aotearoa will start the school year with a healthy snack as the Fruit in Schools (FIS) initiative begins another year of providing an essential service to our youngest New Zealanders.

Te Whatu Ora fund the FIS initiative, managed by United Fresh and supported by the 5+ A Day Charitable Trust whose branding features prominently in retail operations.

5+ A Day Trustee, Dr Carolyn Lister, said fresh seasonal produce is delivered twice a week to schools or kura enrolled in FIS so that tamariki and kaiako (staff) can eat it every day, and have the opportunity to try more than two dozen fruit and vegetable varieties during the school year.

"Role-modelling of eating a variety of healthy kai together at school has much wider benefits for tamariki, their whānau and the entire value chain as it influences long-term changes,” said Lister.

“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. Creating life-long fruit and vegetable fans is critical for the future of New Zealand’s fresh produce growers and retailers.”

Dr Lister noted that 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.”

Chair of the Trust, David Smith, said that FIS will provide critical nutrition for tamariki as inflation hits many whānau in the pocket.

"It's no secret that families throughout Aotearoa are doing it tough this year. 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 Smith.

"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 Victory Primary is just one of the schools enrolled in the FIS initiative. Principal Dan George says the fresh produce deliveries are very effective for tamariki.

"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," explained George.

"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.”

The successful FIS scheme has been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for performing a pivotal role in supporting the health and wellbeing of our tamariki for over seventeen years.

Initially developed in 2004, FIS deliveries are organised at no cost to schools or local communities. In addition, the 5+ A Day Charitable Trust provides free curriculum-linked resources in English and Te Reo to help promote healthy eating and teach students how to grow their own produce.

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