Pupils are being encouraged to eat more fruit and vegetables as the city's war on obesity reaches the classroom.

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The award winning Food Dudes will be visiting a number of primary schools over the next few weeks to help children eat more healthily.

Launched in 2009, the Food Dudes programme has helped thousands of young people improve their diets by eating more fruit and vegetables.

The Food Dudes help young people make healthier choices at mealtimes by teaching them about the importance of eating fruit and vegetables and rewarding them for doing so, encourage them to eat well at home as well as school and engendering a sense of pride in eating healthily.

With more than a quarter of Year 6 pupils in Wolverhampton classed as obese, compared to just under a fifth nationally, Wolverhampton City Council's Public Health team last year launched a call to action for individuals and organisations in the city to come together to tackle obesity.

The Food Dudes have an important role to play in this, and over the coming weeks they will be working with pupils and staff at 10 local schools, including St Stephen's, Holy Trinity, Parkfields, Oak Meadow, The Giffard, Stowheath, Bilston, Graiseley, Perry Hall and Northwood Park.

The programme runs in 2 stages. During the first phase which takes place over a number of weeks, pupils are given free fruit and vegetables at snack times and are rewarded for eating them with prizes like pencil cases, rulers and sports bottles. They also enjoy animated adventures with the Food Dudes as they battle with General Junk and his Junk Punks by eating healthily.

For the rest of the school year, pupils continue to receive encouragement to eat fruit and vegetables at lunchtime and fruit and vegetables provided by parents or the school at snack time. Parents also receive a pack to promote healthy eating in the home.

This year's campaign sees improvements to the way the programme has previously been delivered with a focus on the dining hall. The décor will be enhanced, fruit and vegetables will be better displayed and served, with children being encouraged to eat them first. Individuals and classes eating healthily will be rewarded for their efforts. School cooks have also been given special training to improve their knowledge about nutrition and food presentation.

Councillor Sandra Samuels, Wolverhampton City Council's Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: "The Food Dudes have had a positive impact on the lives of thousands of pupils in Wolverhampton over the last 6 years, and now they have a really important role to play in our battle against obesity in Wolverhampton.

"Too many of our young people are either overweight or obese, and this can lead to all sorts of health problems in later life, from heart disease and diabetes to cancer.

"Children who eat a diet rich in fruit and vegetables are less likely to become obese than children on less healthy diets, and it's tremendously important that they learn good habits when they are young. The Food Dudes are giving them the superpowers they need to live a healthy life."

The Food Dudes programme is run by Food Dudes Health, a social enterprise that works in partnership with Bangor University, and is based on the key psychological factors influencing children's food choices.

Wolverhampton received the Chief Medical Officer's Gold Medal for Public Health in 2010 for its success running the programme in the city, which led to primary and special school pupils eating up to three times as much fruit and vegetables as they had done previously.

  • released: Wednesday 25 March, 2015