In Ireland, the EU School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme is delivered through the Food Dudes Healthy Eating Programme. It works by changing children’s attitudes towards healthy eating, allowing them to cultivate a liking for fresh fruit and vegetables. Built and developed on three pillars of scientific merit, (1) repeated tastings, (2) rewards and (3) role modelling, Food Dudes has proven itself as an effective evidence-based school-based healthy eating programme.
Phase 1 is a 16-day school-based intervention with repeated tastings of fruits and vegetables. During this time, children receive one portion of fruit and one portion of vegetable on each day, are read a letter or watch a DVD-episode featuring the heroic Food Dudes and are rewarded with stickers or small prizes for eating their fruit and vegetable.
Phase 2 aims to maintain long-term consumption and extends to the home whereby children/parents are encouraged to bring their own fruit and vegetables to school every day in their special Food Dudes lunchbox. Classroom wall charts are used to record progress and children receive certificates upon reaching milestones at their own pace over time.
Tasting days accompanied by educational materials such as a passport to healthy eating and short informative video clips in years 2 and 3, encourage a listening whilst eating approach to learning. This phase maintains long-term programme engagement post-intervention and continued increase in consumption throughout entire school year. This allows children to develop healthy eating habits for life!
The more we taste a food, the more we learn to like it. Food Dudes offers children repeated tastings of four different fruits and vegetables, over 16 days. This ensures that children are exposed to a variety of fresh produce in a fun and enjoyable way and, most importantly, in sufficient duration to enable change.
A variance of the classic Food Dudes school programme is currently being rolled-out. This involves three categories of learning (Junior, Intermediate and Senior), features additional tasting days and interactive accompanying measures:
In years 2 and 3 of the programme the maintenance phase will be introduced to all schools. This will involve a series of additional tasting days (up to 5), offering a varied selection of fruits and vegetables during tastings, as well as including new accompanying measures i.e. passport to healthy eating, with specific focus of health and general wellbeing.
Food Dudes is based on a scientifically proven model which shows that rewarding can be highly effective at initiating and bringing about sustained change in children’s lifestyles. During the programme, children are rewarded with customised Food Dudes eco-friendly rewards after they have tasted the fruit and vegetable portions provided.
Children are very influenced by what they see others do. The Food Dudes Programme allows children to engage with positive role models in the form of animated cartoon characters and real-life peers i.e. classmates/friends and teachers/parents. Peer-modelling DVD episodes have also been reproduced featuring the heroic Food Dudes alongside Irish celebrity role models. Letters from the Food Dudes to the class are read by the teacher to praise and encourage and remind children of the importance of healthy eating.