The 2016 expansion of the Fruit in Schools initiative has meant six new schools in Whanganui, Rangitikei and Ruapehu region now have access to daily fresh fruit and vegetables for their children.

Fruit in Schools is a government funded initiative that started in 2005 with 60 schools and has progressed to 547 schools across the country, reaching more than 100,000 students in low decile schools.

The latest increase follows the Ministry of Education's decile rating changes - with all 23 qualifying schools in the area continuing with the programme. Kakatahi, Orautoha, St Marcellin, Taoroa, St Matthews and Upokongaro schools have now joined the programme reaching a further 236 students.

Orautoha school principal Robyn Brider said Fruit in Schools has made a huge difference to children.


"Most of our whanau would struggle to be able to afford fresh fruit for their tamariki, so probably the first advantage is that each of our tamariki now have fresh fruit available to them every week."

The school encourages all children to eat a piece of fruit every morning and have noticed an increase in students' ability to stay focused on task.

"And they are also able to stay focused for longer periods of time," said Ms Brider.
She had also noticed children seem healthier and absences due to illness had decreased.

The 2014 national evaluation of the programme found 74 per cent of schools had observed increased concentration in class as a result of fruit in schools and 100 per cent of principals said fruit in schools contributed to positive attitudes among pupils about eating fruit and vegetables.

Healthy Families Whanganui, Rangitikei and Ruapehu team leader Debbie-Jane Viliamu said increased access to healthy food for our children and young people is a great step towards improving health and well-being in our community.

"Many of our schools are doing great things to create healthy change such as developing nutrition and water only policies, including nutrition education as part of their curriculum and considering their wider food environment.

"The Fruit in Schools initiative supports all of this and helps to make healthy food a normal part of our children's lives."

Ms Viliamu said the Fruit in Schools initiative has tangible benefits for participating school communities and their children.