Why the Food Dudes leave a bitter taste in my mouth

Why the Food Dudes leave a bitter taste in my mouth

Can we do better than individually plastic-wrapped sweating limp fruit and veg?

My home is no dietary utopia, but my children are decent eaters and have always been taught the importance of tasting new things. Tasting is pivotal to encouraging children to have a varied and nutritious diet. This is the basis of the Food Dudes programme in primary schools, which aims to get children eating more fruit and vegetables. Over 16 days children taste fruit and vegetables and, in exchange, receive rewards, such as pencils, rubbers and rulers.

According to Bord Bia, which runs the programme, it has succeeded in its aim. Elizabeth Finnegan, healthy eating programme executive at Bord Bia, said: “Evaluations have shown that it sustains long-term increases in fruit and vegetable uptake.”

Running since 2007, some 825 primary schools participated in the programme in 2017-18, with 130,000 school children taking part at a budget of more than €3 million.

My daughters were among those children. I had never been a huge fan of the approach taken by the programme, but I resolved to keep an open mind as my two girls embarked on their Food Dudes journey. They gave me the daily rundown on what they were tasting: peppers, cucumber, carrots, mangetout, baby corn, apples, strawberries.

Their initial curiosity and excitement at doing something different at school quickly turned to disapproval. They were not happy about the fruit and vegetables they were being asked to try at school.

I asked if they could bring some home. All the produce was raw, pre-prepared and pre-packed in individual plastic bags branded with the Food Dudes logo. The carrot sticks were dried out, blanched at the edges and bendy in the middle. The mangetout, flown from some far-flung destination, were floppy and rubbery. Apples, cut into segments, were browning and “mushy”. The pre-sliced cucumber was a particular treat, sweating and turning to slime in the bag. Having tasted the raw mangetout, my seven-year-old, who previously ate them happily, decided she did not like them.

Read the article in full via The Irish Times.

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