The US Department of Agriculture is spending US$9m to promote fresh fruit and vegetable consumption in elementary and secondary schools.

The popular 2002 Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program exposed students and administrators in 100 diverse schools to fresh produce, and educational materials about the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

Students' eating habits improved, along with an increased preference for - and awareness of - a variety of fruits and vegetables. A recent congressional act made the programme permanent, and funds will be made available this fall for schools in seven states.

The National 5-A-Day Partnership, which promotes daily consumption of at least five servings of fruits and vegetables, will provide educational materials to participants.