'Food Dudes' sees increase in fruit and vegetable consumption in schools

Large increases in daily consumption of fruit and vegetables were achieved last year across schools in Wolverhampton involved in a trial of a healthy eating scheme that seeks to make permanent changes to the food children chose to eat, delegates heard.

Children with the worst diets saw the most significant improvements from the Food Dudes programme. Designed by behavioural psychologists from Bangor University, it has been rolled out across all primary schools in Ireland.

The Food Dudes scheme seeks to change the eating behaviours of children in just 16 days using role modelling, a system of rewards and a programme of repeated tastings of fruits and vegetables.

The poorest eaters in the Wolverhampton schools raised their portions to two a day from almost nothing. Meanwhile, the portions of fruit and vegetables consumed by children also successfully displaced unhealthy foods previously consumed by the children, according to the scheme's national project co-ordinator Pauline Milne.

"Children come to see themselves as fruit and vegetable eaters and schools promote themselves as healthy eating schools," Milne explained to delegates.

The scheme, which has won a World Health Organisation award for combating obesity, has also been trialled in Bedfordshire and Selby.

During a debate at the conference, leading vegetable grower Mark Tinsley said it was a "scandal" that the UK Government had not followed the Irish example and rolled out the scheme to all primary schools across the country.

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