Food Dudes is a healthy eating programme, which is evidence-based in its approach to encouraging fruit and vegetable consumption. The primary aim of Food Dudes programme is to encourage fresh fruit and vegetable consumption among children, with a particular focus on encouraging children to get into the habit of consuming fruits and vegetables at school. It is based on positive role models who take the form of the Food Dudes characters (Charlie, Raz, Tom, Rocco), repeated tastings of fruits and vegetables and incentivised educational rewards.
The Food Dudes Healthy Eating Programme works by changing children’s’ attitudes to and cultivating a liking for fruit and vegetables through early intervention methods based on three core principles; the three R’s:
There are three main phases to the programme:
Food Dudes is free for all primary schools to participate in. Food Dudes is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with support from the European Union under the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme.
All produce provided as part of the programme is freshly prepared daily. Our supplier washes, prepares, packs and labels the fruit and vegetable portions, and delivers them to the school before morning break. Each school is provided with a bag of portions for every classroom for easy distribution around the school.
Some produce is provided whole, like bananas, while others are provided sliced and ready to eat, like carrot sticks and apple slices. Based on ongoing feedback from schools, ready to eat packs are easier and more appealing to pupils in the classroom and result in less food waste.
Some produce, such as apple slices, are dipped in vitamin C. Browning is an enzymatic oxidative process that is prevented by the use of Vitamin C.
Current research indicates that children in Ireland consume only three portions of fruit and vegetables on average. Measures to address this on a nationwide levelare therefore of importance. This includes the Food Dudes programme, in which the key objetive is to encourage increased consumption of fruit and vegetables among school children. Food Dudes differs from other approaches in that it provides the fresh fruit and vegetables for tasting, alongside educational materials for pupils. Food Dudes is evaluated on a regular and ongoing basis by researchers at UCD. The aim of these evaluations is to establish whether the Food Dudes programme is effective in changing children’s fruit and vegetable consumption behaviour at school in both the short and long term.
In 2017 research based on these evaluations was published comparing the initial impact of the intervention in 2010-2011 and in 2016 with a similar cohort of the children. This research indicates that following the Food Dudes Healthy Eating programme more children brought fruit and vegetables to school and consumed more fruits and vegetables at school, and that there are positive long-term impacts of the intervention on fruit and vegetable consumption with sustained increased consumption levels over the long-term.
We are continually working with our suppliers to ensure we are improving the sustainability credentials of the programme. Some key areas of the programme where we have made improvements include:
Produce- the programme uses fully biodegradable packaging and our supplier is continually researching new packaging innovations. We have a closed loop system in place, whereby all packaging and food scraps are collected by the delivery driver, returned to the supplier and taken to a CRE certified composting facility. This has reduced significantly any potential waste and the carbon footprint of the programme.
Rewards- we have moved to more sustainable materials, with rewards made from wood, paper and aluminum. We also avoid plastic wrapping for our rewards where possible. Our lunchboxes are made from recycled plastic and are themselves reusable and recyclable, and BPA free.
Print- we have reduced the amount of printing we do each year and are continuing to make resources available digitally via our website. When we do print materials, we always aim to utilise recycled paper and environmentally friendly inks.
Food Dudes is based on a scientifically proven model which shows that rewarding can be highly effective at bringing sustained change in children's lifestyles. During the Intervention Phase of the programme, children are intermittently rewarded with eco-friendly prizes after they have tasted the fruit and vegetable portions provided. These rewards are an incentive to encourage children to overcome the initial barrier to tasting and as such are only part of the initial intervention.
We have ongoing processes in place to minimise potential food waste. For example, we provide exactly the number of portions required for each classroom and we provide advice to schools on managing any food waste.
We currently take packaging and any food waste back from schools by our supplier to ensure responsible waste management. We ensure all compostable waste is brought by them to a Cre certified composting facility and all recyclable waste is sent to a suitable recycling facility.
We reuse produce boxes for deliveries and recycle them when they can no longer be used.
Yes, all schools and pupils are welcome to participate. We encourage special schools and ASD classes to discuss their pupils’ needs with their Food Dudes Project Manager, so we can help to deliver the most suitable accommodations for your pupils. We also have a set of special rewards and lunchboxes available.
Please contact your Food Dudes Project Manager to discuss any resource queries.
Yes, the Food Dudes Healthy Eating Programme is operated as a Whole School Initiative. However the implementation varies, with separate resources and videos, for different class groups.
The programme has been offered to every school in the Republic of Ireland. Schools are invited to participate on the basis of location and previous participation. Any school can contact us and express their interest in participating in the programme and we will try to prioritise these schools during our planning process.
We select schools in blocks of around 20 schools that are reasonably adjacent to each other to facilitate deliveries of fruit and vegetables before lunch break, and to allow for meaningful project management visits.
Due to logistical constraints, it is unlikely that a school that initially declines the programme can choose to partake at a later date in the same school year. However, there may be an opportunity to participate in future years. Schools who are interested in taking part can express their interest and we will endeavour to prioritise their participation.
Teachers will receive comprehensive notes on how to run the programme in their class. One teacher from each school will be appointed as Food Dudes Coordinator, who receives an in-person half day training and support resources. A Food Dudes Project Manager will visit your school several times and assist with the implementation of the Food Dudes Healthy Eating Programme.
A designated Food Dudes Project Manager in your region will visit the school and provide ongoing support to your school’s Food Dudes Coordinator and teachers.
No, Food Dudes is proven to be most successful when implemented as set out by the Food & Activity Research Unit at Bangor University, which includes the provision of fresh fruit and vegetables alongside the educational materials and rewards.
The programme takes between 10-30 minutes per day, depending on the age group of the class. It has been designed by Teachers with the busy teaching schedule in mind. There are curriculum linked resources available on this site to allow teachers to incorporate the programme into many different subjects.
For schools taking part in the Food Dudes main intervention, there are 4 types of fruit and 4 types of vegetables provided and these are intentionally repeated 4 times over a 16 day period for junior pupils. These typically include: apples, satsumas, blueberries, bananas, carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and peppers.
For schools taking part in a Food Dudes Week, there are 5 different combinations of fruit and vegetables provided over the week. These typically include: apples, satsumas, blueberries, bananas, strawberries carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, peppers, courgette, apple and blueberry mixed packs and vegetable mixed packs.
While these give an idea of what is commonly included, your school may receive a different selection. The fresh produce we provide varies depending on availability and seasonality, and we are continually trialing new produce within the programme.
The programme is available in Irish. All print materials and videos are available in Irish to any school who would like to avail of it. This includes resources for teachers, pupils and parents.
When a school is preparing to participate in the programme, all parents are issued with a letter by your school detailing the programme. As outlined in the letter, all pupils in the school will be automatically included in the programme. Food Dudes is a whole school programme, as this encourages peer-to-peer learning and a changing of the social norms in classrooms to include fruit and vegetable consumption.
If you have further queries about the programme or your childs’ participation, please contact your school directly.
We encourage parents to take an active role and bring the Food Dudes ethos into the home. You will receive some resources through the school with information, but our website has lots more information, as well as resources you can print and use at home. Take Food Dudes as an opportunity to discuss fruit and vegetables at home and try new varieties. Try to include fruit and vegetables in every meal, remembering that fresh, frozen and canned options can all be great.
Yes. In this case, please inform your teacher and provide an alternative fruit/vegetables from home for that day. Your child will still receive their reward/sticker for that day if they are taking part in the intervention.
Where there is a relevant allergy in a school, the school’s Food Dudes Coordinator should inform their Food Dudes Project Manager. Our produce supplier can provide comprehensive allergy information and has strict quality and cross contamination control measures in place.