The European Commission published today the budget for the EU school scheme for the 2020/21 school year: €145 million is allocated to the distribution of fruit and vegetables and €105 million for the distribution of milk and dairy products to schoolchildren. National funds may also be used to top up the EU budget.
During the last school year (2018/19), this EU scheme ensured that more than 20 million children across the EU received milk, fruit and vegetables at school, complemented by educational measures about agriculture and a balanced diet.
Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said:
In the current context, it is even more important for children across the European Union to know and understand where our food comes from. We can be proud of the nutritious, safe and high quality food that our farmers produce. Thanks to the EU school scheme, children can learn about nutrition and agriculture, while also adopting healthy eating habits. We have taken measures to make sure that this year’s scheme takes into account that schools had to close across Europe because of the coronavirus pandemic. But it is important that we continue to look ahead, prepare the future and send a strong sign that life will carry on once we have collectively turned this page.
Along with next year’s budget, the Commission also published a summary report on the uptake of the school scheme in the 2018/19 school year. During that year, around 155,000 schools participated in the scheme with more than 71 million kilograms of fruits and vegetables and 167 million litres of milk being distributed to European children, accompanied by a wide range of educational activities, supported by €192 million from the EU budget.
This year’s implementation of the current school scheme (for school year 2019/20) is affected by the closure of schools across the EU due to the current coronavirus pandemic. The European Commission has clarified that the ongoing crisis can be recognised as a “force majeure” reason. This allows EU countries who recognise it as a case of “force majeure” to reimburse suppliers for perishable goods (fruit, vegetables and dairy products) that were meant to be distributed to schools participating in the scheme. Products may also be donated to hospitals, charity organisations and food banks or similar, to reach those in need.
EU countries that wish to participate in the EU school scheme must notify the Commission with their request for support by 31 January each year. The indicative EU budget per country is based mainly on the number of schoolchildren. National authorities may transfer a part (20%-25%) of their budget allocated from one sector to the other. They can also notify their willingness to spend more than the amount of aid requested if other EU countries decline to take up their full allocation.
The EU budget for school year 2020/21 includes the UK. The Withdrawal Agreement that entered into force on 1 February 2020 provides for a transition period during which EU law continues to apply to the UK until 31 December 2020. The UK may therefore continue to participate in the EU school scheme in 2020 and be reimbursed for payments made to aid applicants at the latest by 15 October 2020 (2020 budget).