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Reaearch & Evaluation

The Food Dudes Programme was developed by the Bangor Food and Activity Research Unit at Bangor University, Wales and has been targeted at children across all age ranges from 2 to 12 years of age and in different environments including the home, nurseries and in schools.

Summaries of the results of different studies in the UK and in Ireland are presented below:


London Study

This study has the most relevance to the Irish Food Dudes Programme and formed the basis for the initial pilot study in Ireland.

A total of 749 children aged 5 – 11 years from two inner city London schools participated in this study to evaluate the effect of the Food Dudes Programme on children’s fruit & vegetable consumption.  Over a 5 month period children in an experimental (Brixton) and a control school (Stockwell) were presented with fruit & vegetables at lunchtime.  In the experimental school only the intervention (peer-modelling videos and rewards and home pack for parents) was implemented.  The levels of consumption of fruit & vegetables in both schools were measured at baseline, intervention and at 4-month follow-up.

Fruit and vegetables were made available to the children at lunch for a couple of weeks giving a baseline (Base, B1) measure before the intervention was introduced. At Baseline, the Brixton Experimental School  ate 20% of the fruit and 35% of the vegetables served at lunchtime.  During the intervention the fruit consumption more than trebled to 69% and the vegetable consumption increased from 35% to 55%.
The intervention was followed by a maintenance phase in which the videos were no longer shown and the rewards were faded out.  When follow-ups were done 4 months later, the children were still eating almost three times as much fruit as at baseline and the changes in vegetable consumption were also well maintained at 53%.

In the Control School in Stockwell where consumption measures were taken at the same time periods, but where the children just received the fruit and vegetables consumption stayed at around 10%.


The conclusion is that the Food Dudes Programme brings about significant and long-lasting increases to children’s consumption of fruit & vegetables whereas simply making fruit and vegetables available to children does not increase consumption.

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The effects of the Food Dudes Programme on the poorest consumers of fruit & vegetables were even more pronounced.  38% of children in the Experimental School ate just 4% of fruit while 26% ate 11% of vegetables at baseline.  But when the intervention was introduced there was a massive increase and at follow-up there was still a 12-fold increase in fruit and a 400% increase in vegetable consumption compared to baseline.

In the Control School there was no real impact on the consumption of the poorest eaters by simply making fruit and vegetables available without the support of the different components of the Food Dudes Programme.

For full paper on the above study follow the link
“Increasing children’s fruit & vegetable consumption: a peer-modelling and rewards-based intervention” – Horne, PJ et al.
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2004) 58, 1649-1660
*Insert link here

Irish Studies

The Food Dudes Programme has been implemented in Ireland in 3 different phases:

  • Initial Pilot Study 2002/3
  • Extended Pilot Study 2005-2007
  • National Roll-out (from 2007)

The Food Dudes studies in UK schools demonstrated that the Food Dudes Programme is effective in substantially increasing children’s fruit & vegetable consumption where there is a school canteen system.  As the vast majority of primary school children in Ireland bring food to school in lunchboxes it was necessary to adapt, pilot and evaluate the Food Dudes Programme in Ireland.

Initial Pilot Study

The initial pilot studies commenced in 2002 and were conducted in two primary schools in Dublin; Experimental School Gaelscoil Míde and Control School Gaelscoil Inse Chóir.  All children attending the schools participated (228 in Gaelscoil Míde and 207 in Gaelscoil Inse Chóir).  Fruit & vegetables were provided daily in both schools over an 8-day baseline phase and during the 16-day intervention.  In both schools the parental provision and children’s consumption of fruit & vegetables in the lunchboxes were assessed at baseline and at 12-month follow-up.  The intervention (peer-modelling videos and rewards and home pack for parents) was implemented in the experimental school only. 

Results were measured in terms of the school-provided fruit & vegetables during baseline and intervention and in terms of parental provision and consumption of the lunchbox fruit & vegetables.
Relative to baseline, consumption of the school-provided foods increased significantly during the intervention in the experimental school, whereas in the control school it showed a significant decline.
The “% consumed” on the Y axis is the mean % of school-provided fruit & vegetables consumed by children at baseline and during the intervention (and the same time period in the control school).  The numbers at the top of each column indicate the amount consumed in grams.

At 12-month follow-up, parents in the experimental school provided and their children consumed significantly more lunchbox fruit, vegetables and juice relative to both baseline and to the control school.

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In conclusion, this study indicated that the Food Dudes Programme can be adopted to be successful in primary schools where the children’s food is provided by way of the lunchbox rather than in the school canteen.  It produces significant and durable increases in parental provision of fruit & vegetables and in the children’s consumption of these foods.

For full paper on the above study follow the link
“Increasing parental provision and children’s consumption of lunchbox fruit and vegetables in Ireland: the Food Dudes intervention” – Horne, PJ et al
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2008) 58, 1-6
*Insert link here

Extended Pilot Study

In 2005 Bord Bia embarked on a study to extend the Food Dudes programme to 150 primary schools over 3 years.  The extended pilot ran for two years June 05 – June 07.  It was superseded by the National Roll-out (see below).

The extended pilot study was implemented in 45 schools during the 2005 – 2006 school year and in a further 53 schools in the following school year.  Over 19,000 children participated.  Schools were selected to ensure a good mix of large and small, urban and rural, schools with different religious ethos, single sex and mixed schools, Gaelscoileanna and schools with different socio-economic backgrounds.  Schools were selected in the following 15 counties to ensure geographical spread; Cavan, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Louth, Longford, Limerick, Monaghan, Wexford, Waterford and Wicklow.

Results of Extended Pilot

Evaluation of the extended pilot programme was by way of questionnaires to teachers and parents and the results were analysed, independently of Bord Bia, by University College Dublin.  A total of 75 schools, 494 teachers and 8,559 parents responded to the questionnaires.

The main findings regarding provision and consumption are summarised as follows:


93% of teachers reported that parents were putting more fruit in their children’s lunchboxes while 82% reported more vegetables in the lunchboxes.
91% of parents reported putting more fruit (70% vegetables) in their children’s lunchboxes.


 Regarding consumption over 92% of parents and 94% of teachers reported that the children were consuming one or more portions of lunchbox provided fruit daily.

Regarding consumption of vegetables 81% of parents and 83% of teachers reported that the children were consuming one or more portions of lunchbox provided vegetables daily.


94% of parents reported that their children were eating more fruit & vegetables at home due to the Food Dudes Programme.
88% of parents reported consuming more fruit & vegetables themselves on a daily basis as a result of the programme.

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In addition the following information was obtained from Teachers:

  • 99.8% of teachers reported that the children enjoyed participating in FDP
  • 71% of teachers reported eating more fruit & vegetables themselves as a result of the programme
  • 92% of teachers reported being able to integrate the FDP into the school curriculum
  • 99% if teachers thought that the health of the children in Ireland would benefit from the introduction of the FDP in all primary schools
  • 31% of teachers reported an improvement in classroom behaviour

And from Parents:

  • 87% of parents reported that their children had asked them to buy more fruit & vegetables as a result of the programme
  • 99% of parents thought that the health of the children in Ireland would benefit from the introduction of the FDP in all primary schools

National roll-out

In Autumn 2006 the Minister for Agriculture & Food, Mary Coughlan approved funding for the roll-out of the programme to all primary schools, commencing in 2007 and evaluation of the National Roll-out is ongoing.

Selected Food Dudes Publications (PDF format)


This programme is managed by Bord Bia and receives financial support from the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine and the European Union through the School Fruit Scheme.

Bord Bia: Irish Food Board
European Union
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food
Copyright Food Dudes 2006 - 2011