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Coughlan announces national roll-out of "Food Dudes" programme to primary schools

Speaking at the national roll-out of the Food Dudes Programme to primary schools countrywide, Mary Coughlan T.D., Minister for Agriculture and Food said she was delighted that as a result of the success of the pilot project more primary schoolchildren and their parents will now benefit from this innovative programme.

Minister Coughlan commented that this programme which has received the International Best Practice Award from the World Health Organization in 2006 focuses on exposure to taste, modelling and rewards for participating children. Children watch ?peer models? eating fruit and vegetables, they in turn are rewarded for tasting fruit and vegetables and so are influenced to taste them repeatedly and to develop a lifelong liking for fruit and vegetables. In a short time they come to see themselves as part of a fruit and vegetable culture. The combination of these powerful biological and psychological factors maintains the behaviour change over time.

"Response from the pilot scheme was so encouraging with children who participated consuming significantly more fruit and vegetables, both at school and at home, that I decided that this was an ideal way to get children to eat their greens, so to speak". The Minister went on to say intake of fruit and vegetables in Ireland is below international guidelines and the national target of 500g a day (5 portions set in 2005) and this programme lays the groundwork for changing that culture.

€4 million has been included in the estimates 2007 for this purpose. Subject to availability of funds in future years, satisfactory performance and on-going evaluation, it is envisaged that the programme would be continued with similar funding in following years so that the maximum number of interested primary schools might participate.

Minister Coughlan said that this initiative also presented a huge opportunity for the Irish horticulture industry which had made significant strides in recent years with strong government assistance. She added that the sector will continue to receive significant grant aid under the new rural development plan.

18 February, 2007

Note for Editors

This healthy eating initiative for children, known as Food Dudes was introduced as a pilot programme in 2005. It was funded jointly by the EU (50%), Department of Agriculture and Food (20%) and Fresh Produce Ireland (30%). It was managed by Bord Bia. Resulting from the success of this programme, it was decided to extend the programme nationally and to fund it from the Exchequer. The programme was developed by the Irish born Professor of Psychology Fergus Lowe, Bangor University Wales.

Bord Bia, the Semi State body with statutory responsibility for promoting the consumption of horticultural produce, will manage the national scheme. Bord Bia also operates a series of programmes in the horticulture sector including consumer promotions, quality programmes, business training and market intelligence. In the case of the Food Dudes programme, it will manage all aspects of the programme including the selection of schools in co-operation with the Department of Education and Science.

Date Released: 18 February 2007