A national scheme giving primary school children in England a free piece of fruit each day has improved their diet, a study of 5,000 pupils has found.
The number of children who ate fruit every day rose from 46% to 65% as a result of the initiative, researchers at Nottingham University discovered.
The school fruit and vegetable scheme was rolled out nationally in 2002, amid concerns about healthy eating.
It provides a piece of fruit to all those in the first three primary years.
Between 2003 and 2005, reseachers from Nottingham University’s division of epidemiology and public health looked at more than 200 primary schools, studying the fruit intake of more than 5,000 children before, during and after taking part in the scheme.
The children were in their reception year – aged four or five – at the beginning of the research project.
Fruit intake was assessed by two questions asking parents how many days in a typical week the child ate fruit, either at school or at home, and how many pieces of fruit were consumed on average every day.
The researchers found that, on average, their weekly intake almost doubled – rising during the scheme from 7.5 pieces of fruit a week to 14.
Dr Andrew Fogarty from Nottingham University said: “A diet rich in fruit is widely acknowledged to be beneficial to health, particularly with regard to the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer in adults, and the risk of asthma in children.
“It’s also likely that patterns of dietary intake of fruits and other healthy foods are established early in life.
“So it’s very important to develop interventions that increase regular fruit intake in young children, especially those from less affluent sectors of society, as diet may be one lifestyle factor contributing towards socio-economic differentials in health.”