The part-EU funded Food Dudes programme was initially implemented in over 95% of the Republic's schools, while a follow-up Food Dudes Boost programme has run in over 700 schools and reached more than 120,000 pupils in the current school year.
The long-term evaluation of the programme, undertaken by University College Dublin, found that:
- The share of pupils bringing one or more portions of fruit to school rose from 54% prior to the 2010 intervention, to 83% immediately afterwards. This had falled back to 67% by 2016, but rose again slightly to 75% following the Food Dudes Boost programme;
- Just 6% of pupils brought one or more portions of vegetables to school prior to the 2010 intervention, rising sharply thereafter to 57%. By 2016, the percentage had decreased to 12% but increased agin to 27% after the Boost programme.
Ireland's minister for agriculture, food and the marine Michael Creed TD said: "The report confirms the programme has a positive long-term impact on the behaviour of primary school children, encouraging them to eat more fruit and vegetables both in school and at home, and helping them develop a liking for these foods."
The Food Dudes programme was rolled out only sporadically in the UK via local public health bodies, despite extensive support from UK growers.
Its developer, a spin-off company from Bangor University, went into liquidation last month, with the university blaming public sector funding cuts.