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Food Dudes

As part of my position on the Board of the Agricultural Issues Center at the University of California Davis (from which I graduated), I have gotten to know a researcher by the name of Dr. Karen Jetter. Karen asked me to serve on a task force whose purpose is to see if giving school-aged children free snacks of fresh fruits and vegetables will help improve their total consumption of fresh produce. The idea is to find a way, at an early age, to change the consumption patterns of Americans, and stop our obesity epidemic.

So, last week, I was on a conference call, which included Dr. Fergus Lowe (Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Wales, Bangor) calling in from Wales, Dr. Jetter and a few other California colleagues.

On the call, we learned that the United Kingdom (UK) has one of the lowest consumption levels of fruit and vegetable in Europe and as a consequence, Britain now has one of the worst heart disease rates in the world. In addition, British children, in particular, are reluctant to eat fruit and veggies. In an effort to reverse this habit the UK government has developed a program to increase children’s consumption of fruits and veggies.

Enter “Food Dudes”, a program which was developed by psychologists at University of Wales, Bangor to encourage and maintain healthy eating habits in children. To find out more about it, go to their website. There is a video showing the four “Food Dudes” getting kids all excited. Check it out.

Here in the United States, we have a wonderful school-based fresh fruit snack program called the Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program (FFVP). For the 2010-2011 school year, the US Government will be providing $101 million in program funding to benefit students in more than 4,000 schools nationwide. These school age children are given free fresh fruits and vegetables snacks during their school day – and in the over 5 years that this program has been going on, there have been some tremendous benefits.

• Attention span of the students seems to improve
• Kids like the new fruits and veggies and go home and ask their parents to purchase them
• Kids seem to have an interest in including more fruits and veggies in their eating and want to participate in shopping
• Administrators and nurses report less behavior problems and absences

With all the bad and sometimes confusing press we read or hear about regarding our elected officials – wouldn’t it be nicer to hear more about this fabulous program?

On the very same day as I was on that conference call, the U.S. Senate passed (by unanimous consent) the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (SB 3307) which will expand access to the existing child nutrition programs. To find out more information, click here.

What a great idea – give school aged children fresh fruits and vegetables every day instead of sugary, salty or processed snacks. Teach them good eating habits at a young age so that when they grow up, they will eat healthier, thereby reducing their lifelong medical bills.

Makes sense to me. How about if we all start doing this at home…right now, today?

Healthfully yours,

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