There are fears that some of the most disadvantaged children in the West Country are being denied access to fresh produce during lockdown because the government has suspended an essential scheme.

Children in Reception and Year One would normally receive a piece of fruit or vegetable a day at break time but they have been forced to go without for the last three months.

Parents at Moorlands School in Bath say were so outraged when they discovered the The School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme had been stopped that the PTA decided to raise money to provide fresh produce until the end of the summer term.

The PTA at Moorlands School in Bath will fund fresh produce until the end of the summer term. Credit: ITV News West Country

Hannah Cameron McKenna, a parent, says the scheme is really important as for some it could be the first thing they eat all day.

She adds: "If they haven't had breakfast the banana they have at 10am break time might be the first thing they eat and it might also be the only piece of fruit or veg they eat all day at all."

This is a time when we know a lot of people are struggling, particularly disadvantaged children and for this to be pulled as well is just unbelievable. The money we have raised is not a long term solution."

Christopher Brown, Moorlands School parent

I'm really angry because this feels like it's targeting some really vulnerable groups of children... The scheme was set up with the view to help those kids quality of life. It seems a completely irrational and bizarre thing to drop at a time when we all need that support from the government.

Sarah Pritchard, St Mary’s Catholic Primary School parent
Some parents believe the free school fruit or vegetables are the only fresh produce some children receive. Credit: ITV News West Country

The Government maintains The School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme was suspended because of operational difficulties during lockdown and says the situation is under review.

But research has shown that during lockdown the country's most disadvantaged children are eating less fruit, fewer vegetables, and more salty and sugary snacks and drinks.

Credit: ITV News West Country

Parents say the government needs to bring fruit and vegetables back to the classroom now so that the most vulnerable children have access to nutritional food.

In a statement, The Department of Health and Social Care said: "The School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme has been paused so as little fresh produce goes to waste as possible while we work to bring more children back to school.

"Funding which would have been spent on the scheme is being used to support the NHS and other priorities during the pandemic."

Credit: ITV News West Country