9 Oct 2012

Minister defends decision on fruit in school scheme

2:34 pm on 9 October 2012

Health Minister Tony Ryall is defending his decision not to extend the Fruits in Schools programme to all decile 3 schools.

Opposition parties and teacher groups have criticised Health Minister Tony Ryall, for deciding not to spend $2.6 million to extend fruit provision to all decile 3 schools.

Under the scheme, about 100,000 children in decile 1, 2 and some decile 3 schools receive a piece of fruit a day at an annual cost of $7 million.

Official papers released to the Green Party show the Government decided against extending the scheme due to the cost. The Greens say the extension would have reached another 36,000 children at more than 200 schools.

The Child Poverty Action Group says a large number of children at decile 3 schools are living close to or below the poverty line, and both it and the Principals' Federation argue the Government is failing to show commitment to meeting the basic needs of young children.

Principals' Federation president Paul Drummond said cost-benefit research on the existing scheme schools shows children are better focused, and have improved behaviour and health outcomes.

Mr Ryall says the previous Labour government had planned to require schools to pay for the fruit themselves after three years, but his government has made the programme permanent by reducing its administrative cost.

The minister says the 2012 Budget was extremely tight, with few new initiatives, and other programmes like free after hours doctors' visits for under six-year-olds were funded instead.

KidsCan urges funding of school meal schemes

A charity says the Government should fund both the Fruit in Schools programme and a targeted food scheme.

The KidsCan Charitable Trust provides full breakfast and lunch options to targeted students in 223 schoolsrated decile 1 to 4, and has bid for $1.8 million to extend that to all schools.

Trust chief executive Julie Chapman says the Fruit in Schools programme is excellent, but a piece of fruit cannot sustain a student through the day.

Ms Chapman says the trust's programme is different because the schools choose which students need breakfast and lunch, and she hopes both schemes can be extended.