Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says this year's expansion of the successful Fruit in Schools initiative to a record 547 schools has had a positive impact.
"Children need to eat well in order to optimise their learning and that’s why Fruit in Schools is so beneficial to students," says Dr Coleman.
“Staff at the school also take part to help encourage students to try new things and influence their healthy eating decisions.
“Fruit in Schools complements the Childhood Obesity Plan. New Zealand is one of the first OECD countries to have a target and a comprehensive plan to tackle childhood obesity.”
Following the Ministry of Education’s decile funding changes, all existing schools have remained in the Fruit in Schools programme, with an additional 77 others eligible to participate.
As a result, a total of 547 schools across the country have benefitted in 2016, covering around 103,000 students and around 12,000 staff.
Schools receive high quality seasonal fruit and vegetables, and they sample up to 24 different types of fruit or vegetable during the year.
By the time schools break up for the summer break, more than 20 million servings will have been dished up.
Feedback from school principals taking part in the programme has been overwhelming positive. The following comments are from a recent survey.
· "I'm the teacher responsible for distributing the Fruit in Schools. Delivery is always reliable, communication fantastic and the fruit is amazing. The variety and quality is superb. My five year olds who count the fruit with me each morning are doing real math problems as well. Thank you," says Shelley Latimer, Glendene School, Auckland.
· "We are so appreciative of the fruit provided to us. Our children love it. Many have never seen some of the fruit that arrives every week, and that's given us educational opportunities we didn't think we would gain. It has also made a big difference to keeping our children focused and attentive in class," says Kathryn Pick, Principal, Eltham School, Taranaki.
· “Fruit in Schools is really beneficial in our school. We have the fruit out at interval and lunchtimes and the teachers take it into their classes each morning. We also use the fruit for language experience activities where the students make smoothies etc. and then write and talk about their learning experiences," says Regan Williams, Acting Principal, Maketu School, Bay of Plenty.
The Government invests $7.8 million into the Fruit in Schools programme each year. This is being supported by the extra $568 million going into Health for 2016/17 – taking the total Health spend to a record $16.1 billion.