Children refuse fruit, even when it's free

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The Independent Online

A Government initiative worth £77m to give free fruit to children has failed to reduce the number of unhealthy snacks they eat, research shows.

A Government initiative worth £77m to give free fruit to children has failed to reduce the number of unhealthy snacks they eat, research shows.

Children have been encouraged to eat a little more fruit under the scheme which gives a free piece of fruit every day to all four-, five- and six-year-olds attending state schools. But the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme has not lowered their consumption of sugary and fatty snacks.

The findings have implications for the campaign to improve school meals which has been turned into an unlikely general election issue by the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and his Channel 4 series Jamie's School Dinners. Oliver has argued junk food must be banned after finding that children never chose the healthy option if a familiar but unhealthy alternative was still on offer.

The results of the evaluation by researchers at the National Foundation for Educational Research suggests that attempts to get children to choose healthy options will fail unless junk food is banned from school dining halls.

Pupils also rejected much of the fruit they were given. Children's fruit consumption rose by about a third of a piece of fruit a day, despite being given a piece every day. Either they refused to eat the free fruit on two days out of every three or ate less fruit at other times.

Teachers reported children refused to eat a significant amount of the free fruit. Tomatoes were particularly unpopular as were raspberries and peaches. The most popular were apples and grapes, followed by bananas and oranges.

Many refused to try unfamiliar fruits. More than a third had not tried raspberries and more than a quarter rejected satsumas, peaches, cherries or kiwis.

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