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  • Telegraph Article

    Posted on 20th February 2008

    Wednesday 20 February 2008
    Starting out

    By Widget Finn
    Last Updated: 12:20am GMT 13/02/2008

    Healthy food is Phunky
    Jamie Oliver's campaign for healthy eating in schools was an amazing piece of timing says Dr. Jennie Cockcroft. "It was just when we were setting up PhunkyFoods and his message tied in perfectly with what we were doing."
    PhunkyFoods, founded by nutritionist Dr. Cockcroft and marketing entrepreneur Sorrell Fearnall is a programme of healthy eating which is delivered by teaching assistants in primary schools. It started when Fearnall had a friend whose overweight son was prescribed anti-depressants by a GP. She says "What they needed was help with a diet, which gave me the idea going into schools to teach children about eating."


    Dr Jennie Cockcroft and Sorrell Fearnall
    She wrote a business plan then advertised on the website Dieticians Unlimited for a nutritionist experienced in working with children based in the north of England. Cockcroft responded - "I loved my academic career but was married to an RAF pilot so moved every three years, and wanted to do freelance work" and they discovered that they lived in the same road in Harrogate.
    Cockcroft had set up a lending library on healthy eating in schools but found that the materials weren't being used. "Schools hadn't the time or knowledge to deliver them, so we decided to produce a package, writing the curriculum and lesson plans then training the teachers to give them the confidence to deliver, which is the key to the programme working."
    The business partners started in an after school club at the local primary school, dressed up as a banana and pumpkin and singing the 'Five-a-day rap.' But they weren't getting to their target audience explains Fearnall. "The children in the club had parents who could afford to send them, and knew about healthy eating. We wanted to get in front the children from deprived backgrounds."
    PhunkyFoods took off when the government brought in the Preparation Planning and Assessment Time scheme. Teachers had to spend 10pc of their time outside the classroom doing preparation and assessment, which gave the schools the problem of what to do with the children for those two hours a week. Cockcroft found that in Harrogate schools they were stuck in front of a video. "We decided to design a programme using an hour on healthy eating and an hour on physical activity. Every detail was planned for delivery by teaching assistants."
    PhunkyFoods was initially financed by another venture they had set up, Purely Nutrition. Cockcroft explains "Companies didn't know where to go to get good nutritional advice, so we created a database of fully registered nutritionists and dieticians. Our first customer was McDonalds."


    Jennie and Sorrell with satisfied customers
    The original cost of PhunkyFoods programmes for a school was £1,400, so the partners approached Northern Foods for sponsorship. Good timing again, as the company was reforming its CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programme and funded twenty schools for a pilot programme, reducing costs for schools to £295 a year. Nestle and Cargill/Frontier have now also joined as corporate partners.
    Company sponsorship in schools is a sensitive area which Fearnall tackles head-on. "PhunkyFoods is very clear on the level of corporate involvement, it is not an opportunity for sponsors to promote foods to children. The content of the programme is written by independent nutritionists and teachers, and no logos are allowed on material that the children see. Companies see their involvement as a CSR benefit."
    There are plans to commission an independent evaluation of the programme if further funders come forward.
    "We'd like to see the programme free in every primary school" says Cockcroft "and hope to develop a special needs package and early years programme. But healthy eating programmes in secondary schools - that would be our biggest challenge!"
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    DO - "Be clear what your business is about" says Cockcroft. "We started PhunkyFoods with clear objectives to give children the skills to make healthy eating choices.

    DON'T - give up on your dreams. Every setback teaches you something and you must keep learning from every mistake you make."

    Posted on 20th February 2008

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