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Fruit in Schools programme making a difference

Hon Pete Hodgson
Minister of Health

24 July 2006 Embargoed until 1:30 pm Media Release

Fruit in Schools programme making a difference

Results from an interim evaluation of the Labour-led government’s Fruit in Schools programme are very promising, Health Minister Pete Hodgson said today.

Fruit in Schools was launched last year as part of the wider Health Promoting Schools initiative. Schools taking part receive free fruit for three years as an incentive for schools to commit to policies encouraging healthy eating and physical activity.

"Developing good attitudes at an early age is one of the most powerful tools we can give our young people," Pete Hodgson

“While it’s early days, there are signs that Fruit in Schools is having a positive impact on children," Pete Hodgson said. "Participating schools report students are showing a more positive attitude to healthy food and are being more physically active.

"Everyone involved in this programme gets my thanks."

According to the evaluation, the programme had an 85 per cent support rate from students and a 70 per cent support rate from staff. Around two thirds of schools reported medium to high effects on learning outcomes. The quality of the fruit was rated high or very high by the vast majority of schools.

“FIS is one of the primary prevention initiatives earmarked in the government’s Cancer Control Strategy. The strategy identifies four health promotion areas – physical activity, food and nutrition, sun protection and smoke free as key areas to focus on in the prevention of cancer in the New Zealand population."

So far around 27,000 children in 114 low decile schools are taking part in the programme. The survey was conducted by an external organisation during school term 4 of 2005 and involved 27 first phase schools.


Frequently asked questions

Why do we need Fruit in Schools?
The 2002 Child Nutrition Survey showed only about two out of five children met the recommended number of serves of fruit (at least two per day) while around three out of five children met the recommended number of serves of vegetables (three or more per day).

Why do schools receive funding for free fruit for three years?
School clusters taking part in the programme will be funded to receive free fruit for three years and will work together to source and distribute the fruit. This gives schools time to adopt a whole school approach, prioritising nutrition, activity, sun protection and smokefree. It also gives school communities time to set up systems to carry on with the FIS programme independently. Also removing funding after three years means we can implement FIS in new regions.

It’s not just about free fruit is it?
No, FIS works within the wider Health Promoting Schools framework that focuses on school communities working together towards encouraging healthy eating and lifestyles. School communities are made up of students, teachers, Boards of Trustees, principals, teacher aids, parents, caregivers and whanau.

The free fruit is an incentive for schools to commit to policies for healthy eating, physical activity, sun protection and smokefree. Ultimately the programme will be more effective and successful if as many schools as possible are involved and committed to this multi-pronged approach to improving the health of children.

Schools which do not have high needs or do not meet the criteria will not receive free fruit but will be able to participate in the programme and can fund their own fruit provision from day one.

How are regions chosen?
Regions are chosen based on formula that looks at areas of high deprivation as defined by the New Zealand Deprivation index. – the types of deprivation measured are income (from benefits and per household) employment, communication (access to a telephone) transport (access to a car), qualifications, living space and home ownership. Schools are invited to participate.

What support are participating schools getting?
All schools will receive four funded teacher release days per year per school to undertake planning, professional development and networking. Support and advice for implementing a Health Promoting Schools/whole school approach will be available from the Health Promoting Schools staff in local District Health Boards or Public Health Units.

How is the programme’s effectiveness being monitored?
There is a three-year evaluation of the FIS programme. This includes consumption, fruit quality, delivery, and how a school implements a HPS/whole school approach focusing on the four well-being priority areas.

Formative evaluation will ensure there is developmental assistance to support clusters to maximise effective implementation. Process evaluation will capture how FIS is being implemented and impact evaluation will measure how well the programme is meeting its objectives.

What are the origins of the programme?
FIS was based on a similar programme in the United Kingdom, where children’s vegetable and fruit consumption is low. A national free fruit in schools for four to six year olds was implemented to improve children’s daily consumption of fruit.

A pilot for free fruit in schools modelled on the UK programme was held in term one, 2004, in a sample of decile 1 and 2 schools in Auckland and Northland.

An evaluation of the pilot was carried out in October 2004. The evaluation showed there was a need to improve the fruit intake of the children in these schools. Over 40 per cent of children reported consuming no fruit at the beginning of the study. The provision of free fruit to these schools was associated with significant increases in fruit consumption and reduction in high-energy snacks such as pies. Although fruit consumption was increased in the short term, there was a rapid decline in fruit intake once the free fruit provision stopped. The process evaluation demonstrated the programme was feasible and was well accepted by participating schools.

How was the supplier chosen?
The national fruit supplier United Fresh is supplying the fruit. All fruit is export quality. A tender process was undertaken to ensure rigorous quality standards and best value for money. This provider has the necessary infrastructure in place to deliver high quality fruit regularly twice a week across the country.

Who was involved in developing the programme?
Fruit in Schools is funded by the Ministry of Health and has been developed by a group with representatives from Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Sport and Recreation NZ (SPARC) the Principal’s Federation, NZ School Trustees Association (NZSTA), Health Promoting Schools, School Support Services, National Heart Foundation, the Cancer Society and a District Health Board.

Why is the programme run through school clusters?
School clusters work by supporting each school to adopt a whole school approach to the four priority areas of FIS. A lead school will take responsibility for interacting with the supplier and purchasing fruit. Local HPS coordinators and regional coordinators will provide training for school clusters in implementation of the programme and ongoing primary prevention strategies for cancer. This will be in collaboration with relevant NGOs such as the Heart Foundation, the Cancer Society, school support services and sports trusts.


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