Produce programme fruitful for kids

ate Pa School students Hapeta Kuka, Seyon Sanoj, Jayden Lito, Sofia Hardley and Heinrick Visser enjoying their free fruit. Photo: John Borren.

Bowls filled with fruit and veggies can be found in every classroom at Gate Pa School, providing children the chance to try new things.

Gate Pa School is one of 46 schools in the Bay of Plenty enrolled in the Fruit and Vegetables in Schools programme, where children are provided one piece of produce daily.

Principal Rochelle Jensen says the programme is a good building block for healthy eating and they get everything from carrots to pineapples and stone fruit.

“It normalises the eating of fruit for our kids.”

She says it normalises it because children are eating it daily and there is a variety of quality fruit and vegetables provided.

It also gives a sense of equality because everyone is getting produce and it encourages the pupils to try different food; if their friend is eating something they don’t like or haven’t tried they’re more likely to do the same, says Rochelle.

“It gives children natural sugar as well, so that they are getting a boost in a healthy way.”

The school also runs a garden to table programme where tamariki harvest food then cook it, and if there are leftovers from Fruit and Vegetables in Schools it will be used for that as well.

Any other surplus goes to the school’s communal pantry that families can access if they need to.

Fruit and Vegetables in Schools is in the spotlight because the United Nations has declared 2021 the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables.

This global focus on the availability of fresh, nutritious produce to the most vulnerable communities is an opportunity to address issues of inequality on a local level.

The New Zealand programme has been running for 16 years and it will deliver more than 27 million servings to low decile schools nationwide this year.

It is funded by the Ministry of Health, managed by United Fresh and supported by The 5+ A Day Charitable Trust.

United Fresh president Jerry Prendergast says the programme supports tamariki struggling with food insecurity in vulnerable communities.

“The IYFV highlights the need for nations to address issues of access to fresh, nutritious food for all their citizens.

“Fruit and Vegetables in Schools is an excellent example of a successful local response to a

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