EU school food plan slammed

FUW president Glyn Roberts has criticised the UK government for abstaining on a vote to back a European scheme to promote the consumption of milk products, fruit and vegetables in schools. The new scheme has an annual budget of €250m (£201m) and supporting countries will select agricultural products to supply to schools in an attempt to promote local food and healthy eating habits. “This is hugely disappointing and represents a missed opportunity for the agricultural sector,” said Mr Roberts. “Why did the UK abstain from the vote? A scheme like this is absolutely worth supporting, especially when we take the rise in child obesity into account.” The current school fruit and vegetables scheme and the school milk scheme, which are separate at the moment, will merge into one from August 2017 under the new plans. “If we consider the declining consumption of milk products amongst children why wouldn’t we support such a scheme?” said Mr Roberts. “It is in all of our interests to educate our young people and small children about where their food comes from and what constitutes a healthy diet,” added Mr Roberts. Farm visits for children are another feature of the new scheme, along with a concerted emphasis on other educational activities. “At a time when some children think their milk comes from a bottle in the supermarket and their meat from McDonalds, surely we owe it to the next generation to facilitate educational visits?,” said Mr Roberts. “Welsh and UK produce should be available in our schools, hospitals, local authorities, leisure centres and nursing homes throughout the year. “Other European countries are extremely good at promoting the relationship between agriculture and food. “For example, Italy is currently leading the way in Europe in improving school cafeteria standards under the ‘Gaining Health’ programme. “Their Ministry of Health even set their own guidelines to promote a zero-mile approach, which means that schools have to source food locally. “A model like this must be adopted here in the UK urgently.” Mr Roberts added the lack of support for this scheme confirms a key fear regarding the lack of support for agriculture from UK government. “As we approach the EU referendum, it has just become clearer how much support we could expect from our home government in regards to agriculture. “If government can’t be in support of a scheme which promotes local produce then how can we expect them to fully support our rural economies and protect domestic food security if we leave the EU?”

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