The Food Dudes Behaviour Change Programme for Healthy Eating
Increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables for children and families
The Food Dudes programme changes children’s eating habits for life. To change children’s diets for life is not just about giving them good food, you have to find a way of motivating them to eat and enjoy it.
Food Dudes appeals to young children from 4-11 years old, and involves a simple set of steps revolving around a reward system, exciting DVD adventures (starring the Food Dudes) and repeated tasting.
Not only is the process easy and enjoyable for parents, children and teachers, it also brings about major and long lasting increases in children’s consumption of fruit and vegetables, and improvements in the eating habits of parents themselves.
Food Dudes enjoys great success in primary schools throughout the UK, Europe and the USA, and is recognised as a market leader of cultural change.
What is Food Dudes?
The Food Dudes Healthy Eating Programme is a school-based intervention designed for use in primary schools that:
- Encourages children to eat fruit and vegetables both at school and at home
- Helps children develop a liking for fruit and vegetables
- Encourages children to reduce their snack food consumption
- Encourages children to become proud to think of themselves as healthy eaters
- Changes the ‘culture’ of a school to one that strongly supports healthy eating
There are two main phases to the Programme:
Phase 1 (16 days)
Each day, children are read a letter and/or watch a specially designed DVD episode (lasting 6 minutes) starring the “Food Dudes”.
The purpose of the Food Dudes is to provide influential role-models for children to imitate.
Children are then given a portion of fruit and a portion of vegetable and those who succeed in eating both the fruit and vegetable are given a small reward (e.g. juggling balls, pencils, pedometers etc).
The rewards are used at the beginning of the Programme to encourage children to repeatedly taste fruits and vegetables so that they begin to enjoy the taste of the foods.
Children are also provided with a Food Dudes Home Pack, the aim of which is to encourage children to eat more fruit and vegetables at home through the involvement of parents and a system of self-monitoring.
In this phase the Programme continues to support successful eating of fruit and vegetables, but with less intensity than during Phase 1. Classroom Wall Charts are used to record consumption levels of these foods, and as the children achieve more advanced goals they earn further rewards and Food Dudes certificates.
Why does it work?
By using rewards and positive role-models, the Food Dudes Programme encourages children to repeatedly taste different fruits and vegetables.
Repeated tasting of these foods allows children to discover the intrinsically rewarding properties of fruits and vegetables – in other words, they discover that fruit and vegetables actually taste really good!
With increased liking of fruit and vegetables comes the greater likelihood that children will eat these foods simply for their taste rather than for any external reward.
Additionally, the Food Dudes Programme creates a culture, at school and at home, that strongly supports the eating of fruit and vegetables and within this environment children come to think of themselves as “healthy eaters” who eat fruit and vegetables.
It is the combination of these biological (repeated tasting) and psychological (role-models, rewards) factors that maintains the behaviour change over time.
"This project is a life changing experience for all involved. It is absolutely amazing when you can take a child’s perception of ‘yucky’ food and change their views so it becomes ‘cool’ to eat fruit and vegetables"
Gloria Rye, Health Improvement Specialist, Wolverhampton PCT.
"An innovative approach to promoting a healthy and balanced diet among children"
Dr Marcos Kyprianou, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection
"This is an excellent example of how our promotion efforts can make a real difference to the long-term health of our citizens. It's just the sort of thing I want to build on when we make our proposals to reform our fruit and vegetable market."
Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development
"Food Dude has proved to be popular with both parents and children in the participating schools. It has been successful in increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables among children in those schools. As a result, for some months now I have been working with my government colleagues on extending the initiative to more schools. This requires substantial funding however and that is why we will be putting some €4 million in place in the Estimates for Food Dudes next year, which is a significant increase on the funding currently in place."
Mary Coughlan. Irish Minister for Agriculture and Food.
"We have, within our grasp the knowledge to create a real step change in the eating habits of tomorrow’s generations. At a time when obesity, school food and the health of the nation is under the spotlight like never before, I am delighted that the Irish Government has taken this progressive step to roll out this proven healthy eating Programme across Irish primary schools. Lifelong eating habits are established at a young age – this Programme engages some methodologies from the marketing world to create a real change in dietary habits. With 98.8% of parents in Ireland welcoming such a national role-out, we would clearly welcome a similar development in the UK".
Dr Carrie Ruxton, Dietician
"The Food Dudes have achieved something I never thought I would be able to… In our house it turned vegetroubles into vegetables!"
"My son, who once did not like any vegetables, now asks for them every day. Five portions a day often doesn’t satisfy him!"
"Great impact! The Programme has helped every child."
"Wonderful experience – shared by the whole school."
"I firmly believe that it [Food Dudes] is the only project that is having a real (and lasting) effect"
Dr Graham Collier, FIHort, Director & Principal Specialist of Fraser Associates and also a Member of the Royal Agricultural Society of England and The Worshipful Company of Fruiterers
"X is 10 years old with autism, has severe feeding difficulties and only ate pureed food. Since the ‘Food Dudes’ programme, X ate his very first piece of ‘finger food’ in his entire life. This is a massive success story for X and a major turning point in his life"
Special Needs Teacher
Work on Food Dudes is, or has been, supported by:
- School Food Trust, UK
- NHS Walsall, UK
- Dudley Primary Care Trust, UK
- Coventry City Council (CHIP), UK
- Department for Education and Employment, UK
- Economic and Social Research Council, UK
- Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, UK
- Food Standards Agency, UK
- Wolverhampton Primary Care Trust, UK
- Department of Agriculture and Food, Ireland
- Department of Agriculture of the Sicilian Regional Government
- European Union: DG agriculture
- NHS Bedfordshire, UK
- Department of Health: Yorkshire and Humber, UK
- Horticultural Development Company (HDC)
- Fresh Produce Consortium
- Worshipful Company of Fruiterers
- Fresh Produce Ireland
- Fyffes plc, Ireland
- The British Tomato Growers’ Association
Commercial Website: http://www.britishtomatoes.co.uk/
Children’s website: http://www.thetomatozone.co.uk/
- Fraser Associates UK
- DairyCo UK
- Birds Eye Wall's
- Cooperative Wholesalers Society, UK