The Food Dudes Programme was developed by the Food and Activity Research Unit at Bangor University, Wales, and has engaged with children aged 4 to 13 years in schools and communities across the UK and Ireland.
National roll out in Ireland began in 2007 and has since seen over 3,300 primary schools and over 1 million pupils take part.
Findings of a long-term evaluation of the Food Dudes Healthy Eating Programme 2010–2016, undertaken by the Institute of Food and Health, University College Dublin.
Prior to the 2010 intervention, 54% of pupils in the groups analysed brought one or more portions of fruit to school. Following Food Dudes, that increased to 83%. In 2016, 6 years later, the percentage was 67%, that is higher than the 2010 baseline, and increased to 75% following the Boost programme.
For vegetables, the results were more significant. Prior to the 2010 intervention, 6% of pupils brought one or more portions of vegetables to school. Immediately after the Food Dudes programme was run in the schools sampled, the number of pupils bringing one or more portions of vegetables to school increased to 57% . By 2016, the percentage had decreased to 12% but was still higher than the 2010 baseline, and increased to 27% following the Food Dudes Boost programme.
The programme is particularly effective in younger children, with the proportion of junior pupils bringing and consuming vegetables at school increasing by more than four-fold.
Another finding was that the majority of children ate what was provided in their lunchbox even when extra fruit and vegetable portions were provided, highlighting the important role and influence of parents.
A desire for increased parental involvement in the programme was cited by parents and teachers, when interviewed, and could further improve consumption rates.