The Agriculture and Health ministries have launched a pilot program to encourage
elementary school children to eat more fresh produce. The project was
inaugurated Monday with the distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables by
outgoing Agriculture Minister Orit Noked to children in the first to sixth
grades in schools in Holon and in Turan, north of Nazareth.
she said, is aimed at “increasing the younger generation’s awareness of fresh
and healthful food, especially in light of growing overweight among children.
The program will improve the consumer habits of children in the long term, which
will help prevent diseases that result from poor nutrition, contribute to the
public good, and bring about savings in the health system,” Noked
In the first stage, fresh produce will be provided in Holon and
Turan to first-to-sixth- graders twice weekly. Some 5,000 children will benefit
from the pilot, which will be supervised by teachers until the end of the school
year. The program will not require financial contribution from
The Agriculture Ministry said that based on data from the
Central Bureau of Statistics, overweight and obesity are on the increase,
largely due to the consumption of more processed food and less fresh fruit and
vegetables. As the price of fresh produce in the last decade has increased,
there has been a decline of 14 percent in family expenditures on fruits and
There is a clear connection between socioeconomic level and
family expenditure on fresh produce, the Agriculture Ministry said. The highest
decile in the population spends NIS 81 on vegetables and NIS 69 on fruit per
capita monthly, while the lowest decile spends NIS 55 on vegetables and NIS 41
Processed foods made out of white flour, sugar and simple
starches are cheap, but fattening and harmful to health.
The program is a
result of success observed in the European Union, where a total of 54,000
schools in 24 countries inaugurated a similar project in 2009 which is still
The government’s effort to increase the amount of fresh
vegetables and fruits on children’s and their parents’ plates appears to counter
attempts by the government in recent years to place the 17 percent value added
tax on fresh produce as a way of increasing state income. A few years ago, when
such a plan was openly discussed, the Health Ministry issued an official warning
against such a policy, arguing that making fresh produce more expensive would
discourage consumption, harm public health, and in the long-term lead to more
chronic disease like diabetes and heart attacks.
Irit Livneh, the
Education Ministry’s health inspector, said schools are the perfect framework
for teaching proper eating habits.
Prof. Itamar Grotto, the Health
Ministry’s official in charge of public health, said the project “fits in well
with the government’s plan to encourage a healthy and active way of life. We
regard encouraging children to eat fresh produce and increasing their access to
it through free distribution as very important,” he said.