September 26, 2011
Utah State University first to implement novel nutrition program in the U.S.
First U.S. Food Dudes Program results in more than 40 percent increase in fruit and vegetable consumption among elementary students
Food Dudes Program expands into six elementary schools in the Cache Valley School District
Utah State University (USU) researchers have completed the first U.S. implementation of the Food Dudes Healthy Eating Program and saw fruit and vegetable consumption increase by more than 40 percent among elementary school students. USU researchers are now expanding the program into six elementary schools in northern Utah.
The Food Dudes program was developed by psychologists at Bangor University in Wales in order to encourage children to eat more fruit and vegetables both in school and at home. Food Dudes is comprised of a three-step system of using role models, repeated tastings and rewards to help elementary students appreciate the benefits of healthy eating.
Last year, researchers in Utah State University’s Nutrition Department, Psychology Department and the USTAR Applied Nutrition Research Program were the first to adopt the Food Dudes program in the United States at the Edith Bowen Laboratory School on the university’s campus. After seeing a clear increase in healthy eating habits among the students, the program will be instituted at six elementary schools in the Cache County School District.
“At Edith Bowen we saw about a 40 percent increase in fruit consumption and a 55 percent increase in vegetable consumption among the students in the school, many of whom weren’t eating these foods with any regularity before,” said Greg Madden, associate professor in USU’s department of psychology. “We saw remarkable success with the pilot implementation of this program, and we are excited to see the program in action on a larger scale in these six Cache Valley schools. Our goal is to raise those percentages even higher by making some very slight variations to the program in the six new schools we are reaching.”
One of the variations in USU’s implementation is offering students social rewards, such as praise, encouragement and public acknowledgement as opposed to typical, tangible awards like stickers or pencils.
“We are excited to have the Food Dudes program at our school, and can’t wait to start seeing some results, especially as it pertains to the social rewards aspect,” said Kathy Toolson, principal at Sunrise Elementary in Smithfield, Utah. “My hope is that not only will these social rewards help our students want to make better choices when it comes to eating fruits and vegetables, but they will also boost their self esteems and help them cultivate a better sense of self and accomplishment.”
USU received funding for the grant from the USDA, which recommends that half of the plate at each meal contain fruits and vegetables. The grant is co-directed by Heidi Wengreen, associate professor in USU’s Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Sciences Department. USU’s College of Education, where the Department of Psychology is housed, currently ranks fifth in the nation in terms of external funding for research.
About the College of Education and Human Services
The Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services at Utah State University is committed to offering high quality graduate and undergraduate programs in education and human services that are innovative and widely accessible. The college is also dedicated to establishing and maintaining nationally visible research centers that advance knowledge and professional practices. For more information, visit http://www.cehs.usu.edu/ .
Thanks to our friends at the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services for providing this information.