European School Fruit Scheme safe for now with funding allocated
Individual member states taking part in the European School Fruit Scheme (SFS) have been allocated funding levels, following a vote by the European Commission's Management Committee.
The €150 million (US$160 million) funding total relates to the 2015-16 program which includes 25 countries, with each member state receiving a proportional amount calculated on the population of school kids benefiting from the scheme.
The EU funds will also be supplemented by national or private co-funding of approximately €32 million (US$34 million).
Last month, various European organizations expressed serious concern over the possible scrapping or changing of the SFS, with Freshfel leading a charge to ensure the 'vital scheme' is maintained across Europe at a time when fruit and vegetable consumption is in decline and child obesity is increasing.
Although the EU continues to evaluate key aspects of the SFS including assessing how it could be better regulated and simplified, earlier this week a vote was held to allocate funding packages.
Topping the table is Germany with an allocation of €27.96 million (US$29.8 million), followed by Italy with €26.89 million (US$28.6 million) and Austria with just over €18 million (US$19 million).
At the lower end countries such as Latvia, Cyprus and Luxembourg will receive much smaller proportions of funding with respective allocations of €975, 995 (US$104,000), €290,000 (US$309,000) and €395,161 (US$421,000).
Freshfel’s general delegate Philippe Binard explains that although the budget allocations have been made for the coming year, the future of the SFS is still uncertain.
"This week the management committee, where the Commission met with the different representatives of the member states, agreed on the breakdown of the allocation to the different member states which does not include the U.K. because it has its own system as do some other countries.
"The budget has been raised from €90 million to €150 million," he told www.freshfruitportal.com.
"It is unclear for the moment what will be the outcome of this overall evaluation but I trust that the services of the Commission will produce a document which will be very supportive to maintain the SFS.
"But at the higher political level it means that we could still have a number of problems relating to the final evaluation that the Commission will make and the possible consequences. We still need to put forward our position to make sure that the SFS is maintained in the long-term."
Click here for a full breakdown of member state funding.
How is funding allocated?
Binard explains that money is distributed according to the number of school children aged between four and eight of a particular country, although it does not account for child population growth in the foreseeable future.
"They also look at the degree of the development of a country based on certain economic criteria because there are countries with different allocation levels. There are some with a greater level of EU intervention compared with others.
"For the moment Germany has been allocated the highest level but looking towards the future, the German population is not growing as much as say the French population and with immigration adding to its population, France is growing at a much faster pace and therefore will have more children of school age over the next few years.
"If you look at population growth over say a five-year period, I think France will be the main beneficiary which is still for the time being an issue because so far the level of implementation of the SFS in France has been very low. So population growth should be taken into account as it continues to evolve every year and this will of course change the number of school children in any member state."
Meanwhile, a European Commission release details the SFS allocations.
"With a potential outreach to 12 million children across 25 Member States, these EU funds will be supplemented by national or private co-funding worth roughly €32 million (US$35 million)," it says.
"Established in 2009, the scheme is aimed at reversing the trend of declining fruit and vegetable consumption by specifically addressing children.
"In turn, higher fruit and vegetable consumption is also supporting efforts to establish healthier eating habits amongst school children. Nutrition plays an important role in combating health problems related to poor nutrition, such as child obesity."
It adds that the national allocations of the €150 million (US$543 million) were officially voted through with Sweden, Finland and the U.K. opting out.