Publication date: 23/11/2006
Professor Fergus Lowe and Dr Pauline Horne, Directors of Bangor University’s Food and Activity Research Unit, recently received a prestigious international award for their work on the promotion of children’s healthy eating.
Along with colleagues from the Irish Government and the Irish Fresh Produce industry, they were invited to Istanbul to attend a World Health Organisation European Ministerial Meeting on counteracting obesity at which the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Dr Marcos Kyprianou, presented the award.
The award was given in recognition of the success of the Bangor research group’s healthy eating programme, known as the ‘Food Dudes’, which the Irish Government, in a major project, is now running in primary schools across Ireland. The programme encourages children to taste and to learn about the benefits of eating more fruit and vegetables and it has proved very successful in bringing about large and long-lasting improvements in children’s diets. It is proving to be a highly effective means of combating the growing problem of childhood obesity to which Governments and parents alike have been struggling to find an answer.
The programme in Ireland is supported by the Irish Government, the EU Commission, and industry. It was chosen to receive the best practice award by the World Health Organization from among 202 applications from 35 countries. Also receiving the award were Dr Michael Maloney, Bord Bia (the Irish Food Agency), representing the Irish Government, and Dr Laurence Swan, representing Fresh Produce Ireland.
Irish Agriculture and Food Minister Mary Coughlan T.D. said: “I am delighted that this initiative, which is in its second year, has received international recognition. We are all becoming more aware of the need for our children to develop a balanced diet. The results of the National Children’s Food Survey 2005 tell us that currently in Ireland, some one in five children are overweight or obese. It is therefore important that we encourage our children to eat healthily, and fruit and vegetables are key in that regard. The Food Dude programme has proved to be popular with both parents and children in the participating schools”.
Professor Fergus Lowe said: “This W.H.O. award is a very timely recognition of the success of the Bangor healthy eating programme. I am delighted on behalf of our team, particularly Dr Pauline Horne and Dr Charlotte Hardman, who have worked hard to make the Irish project such a success. We hope that other Governments will now look closely at what is happening in Ireland and consider adopting the programme themselves. It is vital that action is taken to deal with the very serious problem of childhood obesity and this is a very effective means of doing so.”