Bangor Uni’s Food Dudes Scheme extended in Wolverhampton

 

Wolverhampton City NHS Primary Care Trust, who have pioneered UK use of the Food Dudes scheme to encourage schoolchildren to eat more fruit and vegetables, have decided to continue for a further two years.  

 

The Scheme, developed by Bangor University’s Food and Activity Research Unit at the School of Psychology, was introduced in Wolverhampton in January 2009 and initially planned to run it until December 2011 - benefitting 20,000 pupils at primary and special schools – at a total cost of £500,000.

 

Welcoming the news, Professor Fergus Lowe, Deputy Vice Chancellor at Bangor University, who has pioneered the Food Dudes research project said: “The Food Dudes Programme in Wolverhampton has been a great success, recognised by the Chief Medical Officers' Gold Medal award.  So we are now pleased that the Primary Care Trust there has decided to extend the scheme for a further two years.  This is an example that we hope many more English and Welsh regions will follow."

 

Wolverhampton is the first in the UK to introduce the scheme on a city-wide basis and to date 48 of the city’s 84 primary and special schools have taken part.  Board members recently agreed to extend the programme until December 2013 enabling a further 9,000 children to take part.

 

The scheme uses four healthy eating cartoon characters - the Food Dudes - to encourage children to develop a liking for fruit and vegetables, encourage them to eat them at home and be proud that they are healthy eaters. 

 

In the first 16-day phase of the project pupils try four fruits and four vegetables with different colours, textures and density and are given a small reward – such as juggling balls, a pencil or pedometer – to encourage them to repeatedly taste the produce.  Teachers also act as role models by trying the same foods as the pupils and each child is given an information pack to take home to encourage them to eat more fruit and vegetables with their family.

 

In the second phase, children are encouraged to continue eating fruit and vegetables and classroom charts record what each pupil has eaten and they can earn further rewards and Food Dudes certificates.

 

The initiative is already showing spectacular improvements in eating habits.  Last year the University carried out a study in six of the schools which showed that children increased their daily consumption of fruit by 54 per cent and vegetables by 48 per cent. Meanwhile, their consumption of sugary and fatty snacks fell by 20 per cent.

 

After taking part in the programme schools are monitored for a further year to see if consumption of fruit and vegetables declines. Data gathered has shown that this is not the case and schools are not only increasing their pupils’ consumption of fruit and vegetables but are maintaining that improvement. 

 

The initiative has been particularly successful in special schools where outstanding achievements include a 10-year-old boy who had never eaten solid food but following the first phase of Food Dudes was tasting and eating fruit and vegetables alongside his classmates – a life-changing event for him and his family. Another boy with special needs recently became a “champion” fruit and vegetable eater and was presented with a champion’s certificate - the highest accolade of the scheme.  

 

So far, four of the city’s seven special schools have participated in the scheme and the remaining three schools will take part in the final year.

 

Food Dudes aims to increase and sustain fruit and vegetable consumption in four-to-eleven year olds so that it is the norm throughout life.  The scheme enjoys great success in England, Ireland, Italy & other countries. In May the Food Dudes team at the PCT won the prestigious Chief Medical Officer’s public health gold medal.   

 

For further information on the scheme visit www.fooddudes.co.uk

Publication date: 14 December 2010