What is the Food Dudes Programme?

Food Dudes is a programme developed by the University of Wales, Bangor, to encourage children to eat more fruit and vegetables both in school and at home. It is based on positive role models (the Food Dudes characters), repeated tasting and rewards.

In large-scale studies in schools in England and Wales and pilot studies in schools in Ireland, the Programme has been shown to be effective and results long lasting across the primary age range, regardless of gender, school size, geographic and socio-economic factors. It is ultimately designed to enable children to enjoy eating healthy diets, and to create a healthy eating culture within schools.

The programme in Ireland received a “counteracting obesity” award from the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2006.The programme is managed by Bord Bia and to date over 3,100 primary schools have participated in the National Roll Out which will be completed in 2014. Funding has been made available by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the EU School Fruit Scheme for schools that previously ran Food Dudes to implement it for current students at junior level including specified tasting days for senior classes.
Who are the Food Dudes?

The Food Dudes are four young super-heroes: Charlie, Tom, Raz and Rocco. By eating their favourite fruit or vegetables, the Food Dudes gain special powers which enable them to save the world and the Life Force from a gang of baddies: The Junk Punks. General Junk and his side-kicks, Miss Demeanour, and Master Disaster are trying to drain the energy of the world by depriving it of nutritious fruit and veg. With their special powers, given to them by carrots, tomatoes, raspberries and broccoli, the Food Dudes feed the Life Force and foil the Junk Punks.

There are two main phases to the Programme:

Phase 1 is an intensive intervention which lasts 16 days. During this time, children in the junior classes are given fruit and vegetables while they are read a letter and/or watch a specially designed DVD of the Food Dudes. These super-heroes save the life force from a gang of baddies whose objective is to take away the energy of the world by depriving it of nutritious fruit and veg. Each day the children are rewarded with stickers or small rewards and get a tick on the classroom wall chart for successfully eating the fruit and veg. This phase is primarily school based, although children keep a diary of fruit and veg they have eaten at home. The senior classes take part in 4 tasting days during phase 1, also get read a letter and/or watch a DVD episode and are rewarded with 4 rewards.

Phase 2 extends the home element of the Food Dudes programme by encouraging the children to bring their own fruit and veg to school every day in special Food Dudes containers Classroom wall charts continue to be used for the junior classes and are introduced to the senior classes to record progress and children receive Food Dudes certificates upon reaching goals. This phase maintains fruit and veg consumption in the longer term.

The Role of Parents in the Food Dudes Programme

As well as eating fruit and vegetables at school, it is important that children eat them at home too. Parents can help by encouraging children to eat and enjoy a healthy amount of fruit and vegetables, and set an example by eating them too.

Give praise and encouragement every time your child eats fruit and veg, and don’t offer sweet foods as ‘rewards’ for eating fruit and veg. There is no need to argue about food, just make sure that you make fruit and veg available for your child and stay positive.

If your child has a Food Dudes Home Chart you can help him/her complete it daily, and encourage him/her to try new fruit and veg – variety is good for health.

When your child receives his/her fruit and veg containers you can spend time together choosing interesting ways to fill them, to contribute towards a healthy packed lunch. Below are some tips and ideas which may help you to create lunches that are healthy, interesting and varied.

Tips & Ideas

Children need lots of energy and nutrients from food, particularly when they’re growing. Try to encourage them to eat lots of fruit and veg (you should aim for at least 5 portions a day) to help ensure they have the required amount of vitamins and minerals. Variety is one of the keys to a healthy balanced diet and this applies just as much to the fruit and veg you eat. The more types of fruit and veg included the better, because different fruit/veg contain different nutrients. Including a range of colours, flavours and textures can help make food more interesting and enjoyable.

  1. Sandwiches are a popular choice for packed lunches and can be easily filled with a variety of salads. Or a mixed salad could be put in the veg tub, to be eaten with the usual sandwiches.
  2. Use fruit and veg in different forms, whether cooked or raw.
  3. Some vegetables taste good grated (e.g., carrots) and some (e.g., carrots, celery, peppers) can be cut into sticks, and perhaps eaten with a dip.
  4. Have a variety of fruit and veg in a pot and create a ‘salad’. You might like to try a fruit salad of banana, orange, pineapple slices with a sprinkling of raisins and a veg salad of lettuce, sweetcorn, grated carrot, peas or tomato.
  5. Stir-fries can include fruit and/or vegetables. Save some from the previous evening meal and put in one of the lunchbox tubs.
  6. Mix cheese (cubes or grated) with a portion of fruit and/or any of the above vegetable items.
  7. Pack fruit juice in your child’s lunchbox instead of cordial or fizzy drinks. Make sure it’s 100% pure juice with no added sugar. Smoothies (made mostly of fruit) are also a healthy fruit drink. 



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