How the Food Dudes are saving kid's health
Posted by kathryn in Uncategorized
Over the weekend I read about the Food Dudes: Charlie, Tom, Raz and Rocco. These four superheroes battle the Junk Punks, who are plotting to take away the energy of the world, by depriving everyone of fruit and veg. The leader of the Junk Punks is General Junk, an evil, grumpy man who is as unhealthy as he is miserable. The Food Dudes get their special powers from eating lots of fruit and veg!
True it’s a bit cheesy, but the Food Dudes are shaping up to be one of the most successful children’s nutritional programme of the moment. With the rise in childhood health problems, governments, health authorities and health professionals are casting around for solutions to the problem. As ABC News in the US reports, many of these just don’t work:
The federal government will spend more than $1 billion this year on nutrition education fresh carrot and celery snacks, videos of dancing fruit, hundreds of hours of lively lessons about how great you will feel if you eat well.
But an Associated Press review of scientific studies examining 57 such programs found mostly failure. Just four showed any real success in changing the way kids eat or any promise as weapons against the growing epidemic of childhood obesity.
The Food Dudes programme has been run in a number of UK schools. Fruit and veg consumption not only increased during the programme, but remained significantly higher than the base level, six months afterwards. Most significantly, the biggest gains were seen in the most socially disadvantaged areas; and among kids who, at the outset, had eaten the least fruit and veg.
Developed by psychologists at the University of Wales, the Food Dudes programme includes:
- six videos of the Dudes in action
- a rewards programme including stickers, pens, pencil cases, certificates and letters from the Dudes
- a homepack, to encourage kids to eat more fruit and veg at home
- resources and worksheets for teachers
- further stories on the Food Dudes adventures
As well as increasing children’s fruit and veg intake, the special benefits of this programme include:
- It encourages and supports children through the first few weeks of dietary change. They are encouraged to repeatedly try different fruit and vegetables, giving them to time to develop the taste for these foods.
- Promotion of a culture that supports and normalises eating fruit and vegetables, eg children come to see themselves as “fruit and vegetable eaters”
- It can improve child attendance and behaviour at school and home.
- The Food Dudes also encourage increased fruit and veg consumption at home, which can benefit the whole family.
Governments in Europe, the US and Canada are currently looking at this programme. Ireland have been so impressed with the results of a two-year 150 school trial, that they are now rolling it out nationwide. Canada, Italy, California and the UK are all conducting pilot trials.