Food business bids to improve children’s health

A BIRMINGHAM food business is playing a fundamental role in improving the health and diets of nearly 700,000 schoolchildren across the Midlands, London and the Home Counties.

Minor, Weir & Willis (MWW), which employs more than 240 people at its dedicated packaging and distribution facility in Perry Barr, has been one of the key participants in the Department of Health’s English School Fruit and Vegetable scheme. The initiative gives a piece of fruit each day to all four to six year-old children in LEA maintained primary schools.

The firm, which started in 1963, has been involved with the project since it was first rolled out in the West Midlands in April 2002

Since then MWW has delivered more than 150m bags of fresh produce to nearly 10,000 classrooms across the country. It has also used its industry experience to deliver a number of innovations to the programme.

The scheme initially featured four products each week, but this has been extended to include rocha pears, tomatoes, organic carrots and prepared fruit.

MWW has also worked closely with domestic farmers to grow sugar snap peas in England for the first time.

Sant Mehta, MWW managing director, said: “The English Schools Fruit and Vegetables Scheme has really grown in popularity and proven to be an excellent way of getting young children to eat more quality fruit and vegetables and begin to understand about the importance of a healthy diet.

“We have worked closely with the Government, schools and teachers to continually evolve the way we supply the fruit and regular school surveys demonstrate high levels of satisfaction with reliability of delivery, quality and variety of fruit.”

He said by using the firm’s network of suppliers in the UK and overseas, it had successfully added more variety.

“This not only introduces children to a greater variety of non-traditional fruit and vegetables, but also helps in the education process as they learn which countries they are grown in and the journey from the field to the classroom,” he added.

Minor, Weir & Willis is now one of the UK’s leading handlers of fresh produce, sourcing over 100 products from more than 40 countries, including an ever-expanding network of domestic growers.

UK sales are more than £100m per annum and the company also has operating sites in Holland and Spain with a pan-European customer base.

In the Midlands alone, MWW delivers to over 2,000 schools and more than 300,000 key stage one pupils.

The firm is now looking to work with the Department of Health and NHS Supply Chain on the future of the initiative.

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