Evaluation of the Food Dudes Programme

We recently undertook the first long-term evaluation of the ‘Food Dudes Programme’, a school based health promotion initiative for primary school children. In recent years, large sums of money have been invested in interventions to improve children’s fruit and vegetable intake, but do they work?

Commissioned by Wolverhampton Primary Care Trust and funded by Department of Health West Midlands, we set out to discover whether the Food Dudes Programme brought about changes in children’s consumption of fruit and vegetables, at school and at home and whether these could be sustained over a period of time.

Over a period of 12 months, the team visited 15 primary schools across the West Midlands and measured food intake at school and home: before the programme started, at three months and one year post intervention using a combination of weighed intake, visual estimation and photographic food diaries. Children’s food intake was recorded at break-time and during school lunchtime. Children’s knowledge and attitudes towards healthy eating, family eating habits and the experiences of school staff were also assessed using questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. This enabled the team to explore possible reasons for any changes in child behaviour and also identify reasons for children not changing their behaviours or not maintaining changes in the long term.

The intervention had a positive impact on children’s consumption of fruit and vegetables; particularly three months following the intervention but this was not sustained 12 months later. Interestingly, larger increases in fruit and vegetable consumption were found for children who consumed school meals at lunchtime compared to those who brought in a packed lunch. Children’s break-time consumption of fruit and vegetables increased in schools receiving the intervention three months following the programme however also did not lead to longer term changes in eating behaviour. Although the programme worked well in school, the impact at home was less clear and fruit and vegetable consumption decreased over the course of the study.

Our publications

Our findings have been presented at national and international conferences including the British Psychological Society’s annual conference and the annual meeting of the International Society of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity in Texas in addition to a number of publications in peer reviewed journals.
Upton, P., Upton, D., & Taylor C. (2013). Reply to ‘Evaluation of the Food Dudes programme by Upton et al. Public Health Nutrition. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1368980013000670

South, F., Taylor, C., Darby, H., Upton, P. & Upton, D. (2012). What do lunchtime staff think about children’s eating habits following a healthy eating intervention? Education and Health, 30(4), 108-112.

Upton, D., Upton, D, & Taylor, C. (2012). Increasing children’s lunchtime consumption of fruit and vegetables: an evaluation of the Food Dudes programme. Public Health Nutrition, 6(6), 1066-72.doi:10.1017/S1368980012004612

Upton, P., Taylor, C., & Upton, D. (2012). Exploring primary school teachers’ experiences of implementing a healthy eating intervention. Education and Health, 30(2), 27-31.

Upton, D., Upton, P., & Taylor, C. (2012). Fruit and vegetable intake of primary school children: a study of school meals. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 25(6), 557-562 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-277X.2012.01270.x

Conference presentations

Darby, H., Upton P. & Upton, D. (2012, April). Food Dudes through the eyes of children. Poster presented at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference, London.

Taylor, C., Upton P. & Upton, D. (2012, April). Primary School Teachers’ experiences of the Food Dudes Programme. Poster presented at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference, London.