Free fresh fruit education for Skolasajf children

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Skola Sajf Fruit Day
The Minister for Gozo, Giovanna Debono, together with Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Dr Joe Cassar distributed fresh fruit to children attending Skolsajf, Victoria Centre, Gozo, yesterday.

The children received the fresh fruit as part of the activities in connection with Fruit Day, activities intended to promote healthy eating amongst children. The children had prepared a number of crafts projects, information and poems with fruit as a theme.

Fresh fruit will continue to be distributed during August in an on-going attempt to raise consciousness amongst children and their families with regards to nutrition.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Health said that the Health Department is concerned about the number of obese children and it is important that children get used to eating at least five fruits a day from an early age to reduce junk food consumption.

The European Commission recently proposed to establish a European Union-wide scheme to provide free fruit to school children. European funds worth €90 million every year would pay for the purchase and distribution of fresh fruit and vegetables to schools. This is the latest stage in the Commission’s efforts to improve health and nutrition, as set out in the ‘Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity and related health issues’.

The School Fruit Scheme aims to encourage good eating habits in young people, which studies show tend to be carried on into later life. Besides providing free fruit and vegetables, the scheme would require participating Member States to set up national strategies including educational and awareness-raising initiatives and the sharing of best practice. An estimated 22 million children in the EU are overweight. More than 5 million of these are obese and this figure is expected to rise by 400,000 every year. Improved nutrition can play an important part in combating this problem.

Maltese schools, however, will not wait for this to happen in Europe but are today launching Fruit Days at all centres of Skolasajf. The initiative is a result of the collaboration between the Department of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and Skolasajf of the Education Division.

Similarly to the situation in Europe, Malta too is experiencing the obesity problem in schoolchildren. The Health Behaviour of School aged children study published lately provides scientific data of the local situation regarding obesity. The study also gives a clear picture of the number of children who eat fruit on a daily basis. Moreover, as a country in the Mediterranean, it is expected that we should eat more fruits as part of our diet.

Percentage of children who eat fruit on a daily basis:

11 year olds

13 year olds

15 year olds

Boys

42%

33%

35%

Girls

46%

47%

34%

The objectives of the fruit day include increasing the overall consumption of fruit by children enabling schools to foster healthy eating encouraging schools to commit to the continued promotion of the benefits of consumption of daily fresh fruit creating a positive and enjoyable experience of eating fruit and vegetables.

Every child deserves a healthy start in life. Children’s diets can be an important influence on their health now and in the future. There is clear and growing evidence that eating at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day can help protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease and certain cancers. It is also relevant to keep in mind that eating patterns acquired in early childhood are likely to continue into adolescence and adulthood. Schemes like Fruit Days play major role in investing in the future of our children’s health and hence the health of the nation.

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