An EU-funded scheme to provide primary school and kindergarten pupils with fresh vegetables and fruits once a week is not in operation this scholastic year.
Launched at the beginning of 2010, the scheme could not be implemented last September, as the government was striving to sort out administrative issues, including strict EU procurement conditions, the Times of Malta was told.
Yet, sources noted, the Education Ministry sent circulars and letters to school administrators and parents during the summer indicating that the distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables would be continuing.
“It is disgraceful that such a simple scheme, which children used to look forward to, has not yet started, more than four months into the scholastic year,” said the headmaster of a government primary school.
He added that when an explanation was sought from the Education Ministry, officials would direct them to the Ministry for the Environment, arguing the scheme was “not their problem”.
Parents who contacted the Times of Malta said school heads told them no one knew when the matter would be resolved.
“It seems the government has money for everything under the sun except for our children’s well-being and education. We really got our priorities wrong in this country,” said a parent whose son attends a kindergarten.
An Education Ministry spokeswoman threw the ball in the Environment Ministry’s court, saying the latter administered the “New School Scheme 2017-2018”.
On his part, a spokesman for the Environment Ministry admitted that, despite preparations for the scheme to continue at the beginning of this scholastic year, there had been administrative problems that needed more time to resolve.
“Unfortunately, due to particular circumstances, the procurement process took longer than originally planned, thus it was not attainable to launch this scheme at the beginning of the scholastic year,” he said.
Asked when the scheme was planned to start, the spokesman replied: “The scheme will be launched shortly, when more information will be provided.”
With most of the funds coming from the EU, the scheme, intended primarily to act as an additional educational tool, provides all primary school children – in government, Church and independent schools – with a weekly portion of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The idea is to instill healthy eating habits in children from a young age.
The provisions are usually sourced through local markets. The scheme forms part of an EU-wide programme available to all Member States.