Brussels, 17 October 2008
Today in Cyprus, European Commissioner for Agriculture, Mariann Fischer Boel, will launch an EU-wide campaign to promote the relaunched School Milk Programme. Under the slogan “Milk – Drink it up”, the information campaign aims to raise awareness of the benefits of milk consumption and the availability of EU funds to schools. During a day dedicated to balanced diet and good eating habits organised by pupils of Panagia Triherousa school in Limassol, Commissioner Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Health, Androulla Vassiliou, and Dr Michalis Polynikis, Minister for Agriculture of Cyprus, will kick off a series of entertaining and educative events. As part of this campaign, young people will be invited to take part in a photo competition on the theme “Milk power”.
“Children develop their eating habits at a young age and often these habits will be decisive factors in their health throughout their lives. It is the goal of the European School Milk Programme to promote both the present and future health of our children by helping schools to provide dairy products to their pupils and encouraging children to maintain a healthy diet”, said Commissioner Fischer Boel.
Health Commissioner Androulla Vassilou expressed her belief that providing young people with healthy food and drink options in schools are positive and necessary steps towards tackling obesity in Europe today. "This is part of an integrated approach towards implementing policies that encourage and promote healthy eating and physical activity across the board; from food, agriculture and consumer sectors, to sport, education and transport sectors", she said.
Obesity, overweight and bad eating habits among young people are problems faced now by young people in the EU. In Cyprus, the percentage of 7 – 11 year old who are obese or overweight is over 20 %. Much of this problem stems from poor eating habits and insufficient physical activity, which, in the long term can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, strokes and other health problems later in life.
In this context, the EU has made a priority of supporting the development of good eating and nutritional habits.
The newly expanded EU School Milk Programme aims to encourage children to consume dairy products as part of a balanced diet and provides subsidies for distribution of dairy products in schools and other educational establishments. A new regulation published on 11 July this year provides for a larger range of products covered by the subsidy, thus responding to requests from the European Parliament and the Council. Included on the list are milk and its flavoured variants (including lactose-free milk drink), a larger assortment of cheeses (including low-fat cheeses), yoghurts and fermented milk products, such as buttermilk or kephir. The programme is now granting to secondary schools the same full and guaranteed access as primary and nursery schools. The new rules of the programme came into force in the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year.
Along the lines of the School Milk Scheme, the European Commission has recently also proposed to establish a European Union-wide scheme to provide free fruit and vegetables to school children. Besides providing free fruit and vegetables, the scheme would require participating Member States to set up national strategies including educational and awareness-raising initiatives and the sharing of best practice. This programme will be implemented in 2009 as soon as adopted by the Council.
Together the two schemes will contribute to improve health and nutrition, as set out in the 'Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity and related health issues'
Relevant information on milk and the EU School Milk Programme is available on the dedicated web site www.drinkitup.europa.eu
For more information on the European Commission's nutrition policy