Getting children to eat more fruit and vegetables: longer-term benefits
23 March 2010
This third and latest evaluation of the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (SFVS) explored the impact of the scheme in the longer term. Over the four years since the SFVS started children were eating the same amount of fruit as before the scheme started, but more vegetables. However, broadly girls were ‘doing better’ than boys, and there had been a significant decline in the number of snacks and desserts they were consuming.
The research was led by NFER in partnership with nutritionists from the University of Leeds. As with previous evaluations, it was conducted in the north-east of England, where the scheme was introduced in March 2004.
Conclusions and implications
The findings from the evaluation:
suggest that the SFVS encourages children to try new fruit and vegetables that they might otherwise not have tried
show that compared to measures taken in 2004, children eat more fruit and vegetables than they did before starting the SFVS
suggest that the effects of the SFVS do not carry over into the home environment
support the efficacy of focusing interventions such as the SFVS on younger children to shape longer-term eating behaviours
suggest that positive changes to healthy eating habits at school, beyond just the consumption of fruit and vegetables, may be associated with aspects of the 5 A DAY programme other than the SFVS and to the introduction of nutritional standards for school food
demonstrate that there is a slight positive association between fruit consumption and living in an area with high proportions of people not in good health and a similar association between higher levels of fruit and vegetable consumption and being part of a BME group.
Although the findings suggest that challenges remain for the 5 A DAY initiative to bring about sustained change, the evaluation of the SFVS reinforces the benefits of employing integrated, multi-component intervention programmes. David Teeman, from NFER, said: "These findings are encouraging in many aspects; children were eating more fruit and vegetables combined than they had before the scheme started. However, in a complex area like this, there is still a clear need for further robust research, so that we can reliably differentiate and describe the impact of different elements of multi-component programmes like 5 A DAY."
The research summary is available on the from the Department of Health website. For more information contact: Gail Goodwin on 01753 637159, email@example.com or Allie Chownsmith on 01753 637155, firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
The School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (SFVS) is one initiative within a broader range of policy-led activity related to healthy eating in the UK and is a specific component of the 5 A DAY programme (just eat more fruit and vegetables) (Department of Health). The scheme entitles all four to six year old children, in local authority maintained infant, primary and special schools, to a free piece of fruit or vegetable each school day.
The third evaluation of the SFVS was commissioned by the Department of Health, to begin to explore the longer-term impacts of the SFVS. The research was led by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) in partnership with nutritionists from the University of Leeds. The evaluation was conducted in the North East of England, where the scheme was introduced in March 2004.
The main aim of the evaluation was to begin to explore the longer-term impact of the SFVS, now that it has been implemented throughout England and has been operating in schools for at least four years. The evaluation was designed so that the data collected in 2008 would be compared with that gathered in the earlier evaluations, in order to compare findings over a much longer period of time.
The evaluation collected data using The Child and Dietary Evaluation Tool (CADET), which records what children eat over a 24-hour period, developed and validated by the University of Leeds (also used in the previous evaluations).
Forty-two of the original 58 schools in the North East of England agreed to be involved in this evaluation. In each school, one class from Years 1, 2, 3 and 5 participated; a total of 2,562 CADETs were returned.
Nutritional Standards for Schools:
The standards for school food regulate the types of food that can be
served and restrict choice to healthy options (e.g. deep fried foods can
only be served twice a week, sweet fizzy drinks are banned and at least
one portion of fruit and one portion of vegetables or salad must be
served as part of a lunch.) The nutrient-based standards set maximum
levels of fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar and minimum levels of
nutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium and vitamins.