The National School Fruit Scheme (NSFS) provides one free piece of fruit each school day to children, aged 4 to 6 years, attending state schools in England. The aims of the present study were to determine if NSFS was associated with a higher fruit consumption in infant school children (4–6 years old), and to assess whether fruit consumption was higher in junior school children (7–8 years old) who had received free fruit as infants compared with those who had not. The present cross-sectional study involved seventeen schools, eight in the NSFS (study schools) and nine not in the NSFS (control schools). Study and control schools were selected in areas of similar levels of deprivation. All schools were on the outskirts of London in Southeast England. A retrospective 24 h food tick list was given to each pupil in Reception to Year 4 to take home for their parents to complete and return. Response rate was 51 %. Median total fruit consumption (excluding fruit juice) in infants receiving free fruit was 117 g/d compared with 67 g/d in infants not receiving free fruit (P<0·001). Median consumption in juniors who had received free fruit at school as infants did not differ from those who had not (83 g/d v. 86 g/d). The NSFS has increased fruit consumption in infant school children. It does not appear to have longer-term effects in junior school children. If the scheme is to affect dietary habits and improve health in the long term, further interventions will be needed.
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