Schoolchildren in Walsall are to be encouraged to eat more fruit and vegetables with the launch of a successful national initiative in several of the borough’s schools this autumn.
Eleven schools have signed up to Food Dudes which is being funded by Public Health NHS Walsall supported by Walsall Council’s catering services team. The initiative has been developed by the School of Psychology at Bangor University, North Wales.
Among those taking part are Watling Street, Pelsall Village, St Johns C of E, Pool Hayes, Beacon Primary, Harden Primary, Moorcroft Wood and Elmore Green. The remaining schools are due to start the programme in November.
The scheme is already operating elsewhere in the Black Country. Evidence shows it has more than doubled the amount of fruit and vegetables consumed by children whilst reducing the number of unhealthy snacks. To date over 500,000 primary school children have participated in the Food Dudes programme worldwide.
NHS Walsall has secured funding for 2011/12 which will enable up to 9,000 children at infant, primary, junior and special schools to participate over the the next three years.
Dr Barbara Watt, consultant in public health for NHS Walsall, said: “The Food Dudes programme is a fun and interactive way for children to try new fruits and vegetables and learn more about healthy eating from a young age. The programme has proved successful in many areas and we are delighted to bring it to primary schools in Walsall.”
Food Dudes is based on the principles of repeated tasting, role modelling and rewards.In the first 16 days of the project pupils try four fruits and four vegetables with different colours, textures and density and are given a small reward to encourage them to try more in the future.
Foods children in Walsall will be trying include raisins, carrots, broccoli, mange tout, citrus fruit, bananas, cherry tomatoes and sweet peppers.
Children having a school meal will also have the opportunity to try the vegetables cooked as part of their lunch. The council’s catering services team plan to invite parents into school so they can get involved in the project as well.
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 record what they eat at home and to encourage them to eat more fruit and vegetables with their family.
As part of the programme the children will follow the adventures of the Food Dudes who go into battle with General Junk to prevent him stealing all the fruit and vegetables and forcing the children to eat unhealthy snacks.
In the second phase, children are encouraged to continue eating fruit and vegetables and classroom charts record what each pupil has eaten and the children are given boxes to take home and bring back to school with their favourite fruit and vegetables in. They are also able to earn further rewards and Food Dudes certificates.
Towards the end of the school year a special Food Dudes week is hosted where the children can try more exotic fruit and vegetables and take part in special fun activities related to healthy eating.
Councillor Anthony Harris, Walsall Council cabinet member for leisure and culture, said: “This initiative gives children the chance to try a range of items from the most common fruit and vegetables to the more exotic. Encouraging children to try new things is always a challenge but I’m confident they will all be eating more fruit and vegetables as a result of Food Dudes.
“This initiative is being rolled out to eight schools.We hope to have a second batch of schools and in the long term the aim is to extend it to all primary schools in the borough.”
Professor Fergus Lowe, co-founder of Food Dudes, said: “Our team here are delighted that Walsall has come on board with Food Dudes. The West Midlands has really grasped the initiative and is leading the way in ensuring that children have a healthy start in life.”
More information about Food Dudes can be found on the website www.fooddudes.co.uk