2013-04-24 xml
EU School Milk Scheme Important for Educating Children

EDA contributed to the recent consultation from the Commission on the European School Milk Scheme and School Fruit Scheme.

EDA highlights the importance of education in positively influencing young people’s eating habits and asks the Commission to support promotional measures to increase the impact of the School Milk Scheme. EDA also suggests improvements to the current organisation of the School Milk Scheme that can contribute to a better functioning in those Member States where it currently runs suboptimal.

School Milk

On April 22nd, the European Commission finalized a public consultation on the review of the CAP schemes providing agricultural products to school children. The European dairy sector welcomes this opportunity to inform the European Commission about the problems some Member States are facing to date with implementing the School Milk Scheme (SMS) and to make suggestions for improving its efficiency and effectiveness to allow more European children to enjoy nutritious dairy products at school.

Education essential for making healthy choices

The main aim of the SMS is to direct the eating habits of children towards a sustained milk and dairy products consumption. During childhood, milk and dairy products are very important for the daily nutrient contribution.

Milk can claim five nutrients: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B2 and B12, and is rich in protein. Six out of eleven EU-approved children health claims on normal growth and development of bone can be made by certain milks, yoghurts and cheeses.

Education is crucial to achieve a long-term behaviour change that will make dairy part of the daily diet later in life. The introduction of accompanying measures for the SMS to support educational activities would significantly increase its impact. The European dairy sector also urges policy makers to acknowledge and make better use of the existing science on the importance of milk and dairy products consumption for children.

Flexible organisation and best practices

EDA considers the current functioning of the SMS suboptimal in most Member States. The daily operation of the SMS is costly - budget, distribution and administration wise. In countries where there is no top-up, the level of subsidy is too low and the co-financing by parents is a far too expensive solution. This explains the underutilisation of the SMS in those Member States.

The dairy sector feels it is important to give Member States sufficient flexibility at national level to adapt to country specific needs, objectives and eating habits. All relevant stakeholders, including national authorities, schools and parents, should be involved to optimally implement the SMS. The development of a national strategy that encourages collaboration and simplifies coordination and organisation could bring added value there where the SMS is currently running sub-optimally. An exchange of best practices between Member States should be facilitated by the European Commission.

School Milk Scheme and School Fruit Scheme separately

EDA is not in favour of the proposed merger of the School Milk Scheme and School Fruit Scheme. Both schemes have different history, budgets, specifications and logistic requirements. Instead of multiplying and thereby diluting the objectives of these two schemes, special attention should be given to improve both of them separately. While EDA certainly wishes to acknowledge that fruits and vegetables are good for health, the provision of nutritious dairy foods at schools across Europe make an important contribution to the health and well-being of young children.

“All indicators point to the importance of a balanced and healthy diet for the European citizen. It is essential to teach children good eating habits early on, to avoid obesity and other health problems in adult life. We believe the School Milk Scheme is a very valuable asset for achieving this, and therefore encourage the European Commission to optimize and expand the system so that all school children will have access to nutrient-rich dairy foods”, says Joop Kleibeuker, Secretary-General of the European Dairy Association.

EDA

   
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