Encouraging fruit consumption in primary schoolchildren: a pilot study in North Wales, UK

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Abstract

Objective

To explore the feasibility and cost of promoting fruit consumption among primary schoolchildren across Anglesey, a region in North Wales, UK.

Design, setting and subjects

A postal survey of the head teachers of all 51 primary schools across Anglesey to ascertain their attitudes to promoting fruit consumption and current initiatives in place was conducted. This was followed by a 1-week pilot study in a single primary school to assess parents' support and willingness to bear or share costs, to determine children's fruit preferences, and to calculate fruit waste. Finally, the cost to local government of providing a piece of fruit to each primary schoolchild daily was calculated.

Results

A 53% response rate was obtained in the postal survey of primary school head teachers. All respondents expressed an interest in participating in future fruit promotion programmes. Of 27 primary schools, 26 that responded (96.3%) had programmes in place in which 18 had adopted specific food policies. In the pilot study at the single Anglesey primary school, a response rate of 97% from parents who expressed support for fruit promotion in school was obtained. Parents expressed their willingness to pay at least 15 pence per day towards fruit provision at break time for their children if such a service was not provided by local government. If local government was to invest in this initiative, the total cost of providing one piece of fruit per day to all primary school children in Anglesey would be £211 000 per annum (2004 prices; 19 pence per child per day).

Conclusion

This pilot study shows support by teachers and parents for initiatives to encourage primary schoolchildren to eat more fruit. Waste can be minimized by choosing fruit that children prefer, in this study, grapes, apples and oranges. The decision as to whether local government or parents are asked to pay for fruit provision is political, depending on local socioeconomic circumstances, local government priorities, national education and nutrition policies.

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