N° 67 | May 2012

Vegetable and Fruit Breaks in Australian Primary Schools

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Background

Systematic reviews have consistently reported that multi-strategic school-based vegetable and fruit interventions can increase children’s daily serves of vegetables and fruit1-3. National distribution schemes which provide free vegetables and fruit to students at school have been implemented in a number of countries4-6. As an alternative to such distribution programs, in Australia, the Australian Government launched in April 2005, the “Go for 2&5®” campaign; a social marketing campaign and program to increase consumption of vegetables and fruit in the general population. The campaign was part of the Building Healthy, Active Australia initiative to address overweight and obesity. To support the “Go for 2&5®” campaign Australian Primary schools were encouraged to implement a vegetable and fruit program called Crunch&Sip®* ; a time in class for children to consume a piece of vegetable or fruit that they had brought from home7. Schools were recommended to implement the program in at least 80% of school classes on every school day. To support the establishment and sustainability of the program, schools were also encouraged to implement supportive school policies, curriculum material and parent communication strategies. Resources were made available to facilitate the implementation of these strategies8.

Adoption of vegetable and fruit breaks within Australia

While the campaign is a nation-wide initiative of the Federal Government, to date, only the states of Western Australia, South Australia and New South have officially adopted the program. In these states funding has been provided to various Government and non-Government agencies to support schools to implement the program. As a result almost 1,000 primary (children five to twelve years of age) and central (children five to eighteen years of age) schools8 across the three states have received “certification” by the program as having a vegetable and fruit break in at least 80% of classes every school day and have a school policy supporting the program.

That is not to say, however, that more Australian schools have not also adopted “veg and fruit breaks”. Anecdotally vegetable and fruit breaks have been occurring in primary and central schools across Australia for a number of years; as schools have acknowledged the beneficial effects such breaks have for children’s concentration and behaviour while in class. While no national survey has been undertaken, our recent vegetable and fruit break prevalence study in New South Wales9 found that 62% of the 384 primary and central school principals surveyed, were implementing a vegetable and fruit break. Encouragingly, the results of our study also found that schools in rural or less socioeconomically advantaged areas have the highest rates of program adoption, indicating that such programs may be effective for reaching children most at risk. Moreover, principals were highly supportive of vegetable and fruit breaks, with 86.7% reporting that it is appropriate for schools to implement vegetable and fruit breaks. The extent to which these findings can be generalised across other state and territories school systems is unknown; however it is an encouraging indication of Australian school adoption and acceptance of the program.

Where to next?

If the public health benefit of vegetable and fruit breaks for Young people are to be realised the number of schools implementing such programs in Australian schools needs to be maximised. Our prevalence study identified that when controlling for all school characteristics, recommended vegetable and fruit break adoption was 1.9 and 2.2 times greater respectively in schools that had parent communication strategies and trained teachers. Thus, policy makers and practitioners interested in facilitating the adoption of vegetable and fruit breaks could therefore ensure that schools can access such support.

 

* Crunch&Sip® was developed by the Western Australian Department of Health. Which was adapted from the Great Southern Public Health
Service and the Albany and Narrogin District Education Offices Fruit & Water Policy in Schools Project. Healthway funded the pilot project.

  1. Knai C et al. Getting children to eat more fruit and vegetables: A systematic review Preventive Medicine 2006;42:85 – 95.
  2. de Sa J and Lock K. Will European agricultural policy for school fruit and vegetables improve public health? A review of school fruit and vegetable programmes European Journal of Public Health 2008;18:558-568.
  3. Van Cauwenberghe E et al. Effectiveness of school-based interventions in Europe to promote healthy nutrition in children and adolescents: systematic review of published and ‘grey’ literature British Journal of Nutrition 2010;103:781–797.
  4. The Department of Health. The National School Fruit Scheme, 2002. London: National Health Service. Available at: http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/documents/digitalasset/dh_4019237.pdf
  5. United Fresh Produce Association. Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program, 2010. Available at: http://www.unitedfresh.org/newsviews/additional_information_FFVP. Accessed: 22 November 2010.
  6. Boyd S et al. Taking a bite of the apple: The implementation of Fruit in Schools (Healthy Futures evaluation report to the Ministry of Health) Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research, 2007.
  7. Australian Government. Programs and Projects of the Go for 2&5 campaign. 2005 viewed November 8 2010, http://www.gofor2and5.hstprdweb01.perthix.net/article.aspx?c=2&a=134&n=1.
  8. Government of Western Australia. Crunch&Sip. Viewed 5th March 2012, http://www.crunchandsip.com.au/default.aspx
  9. Nathan N, Wolfenden L, Butler M, Bell AC, Wyse R, Campbell E, Milat AJ, Wiggers J. Vegetable and fruit breaks in Australian primary schools: Prevalence, attitudes, barriers and implementation strategies., Health Education Research
    2011; Published Online 13 May 2011.
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