• NFER research findings for PhunkyFoods

    Posted on 24th November 2008

    Major research project reveals advances in school healthy eating

    The culmination of a year's independent research has found that teachers, parents and pupils are benefiting from a dedicated healthy eating and physical exercise programme.

    More than half of the children involved in the research said they were eating more healthily as a result of the PhunkyFoods programme, which has been adopted by more than 500 schools across England.

    The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), an internationally regarded charity which has been at the forefront of independent educational research for 60 years and regularly contributes to Government policy, studied the impact of PhunkyFoods in 18 primary schools across the country between November 2007 and September 2008.

    Its findings, which are set to be published on October 9, found that in schools using PhunkyFoods for one year:

    - Parents and teachers saw improvements in the knowledge, awareness, attitudes and behaviour towards exercise and healthy eating
    - More than half of children said they ate more healthily as a result
    - More than half of children demonstrated that they had improved their understanding of why healthy eating was important
    - The number of pupils who could provide a sophisticated response about what 'balance' meant to them in diet doubled after PhunkyFoods had been delivered

    These findings were based on interviews with more than one hundred pupils, teachers and parents.

    The NFER concluded that PhunkyFoods is "Popular with the whole school community and clearly helps expand, embed and enhance health-related teaching, through increasing school staff competence and confidence, complementing other initiatives and positively impacting on pupil knowledge, attitudes and behaviour."

    Developed by nutrition expert Purely Nutrition with backing from Northern Foods in 2005, PhunkyFoods is supported by a consortium that includes Nestle and Cargill. The consortium jointly supports the programme, encouraging healthier lifestyles by providing the funding for the scheme's expansion to a growing number of schools across the UK.

    Currently 517 UK primary schools are benefiting from the curriculum-based programme which provides weekly lesson plans for each primary school year group. Through art, drama, music, play and hands-on experience with food children learn key healthy eating and physical activity messages in a light hearted and fun manner.

    Dr Jennie Cockroft, director of Nutrition at Purely Nutrition, said: "These results help confirm that it really is possible to improve children's eating habits through early intervention and education - now we need the Government to recognise the progress we are making and to support us."

    It would cost approximately £7m for every primary school child in the country to receive PhunkyFoods, a fraction of the £372m investment unveiled in January this year by the Government to tackle obesity - a key part of which is educating children.

    The independent research, which evaluated the impact and implementation of PhunkyFoods in eighteen case study schools, involved schools undergoing detailed assessments before and after they had begun teaching the scheme. More than one hundred pupils, teachers and parents were interviewed about their experience and the impact of the programme.

    Dr Cockroft continued: "The only way to create a lasting benefit is to ensure children have the knowledge to make the right decisions on their own, without the need for constant supervision or strict rules. PhunkyFoods clearly has a positive impact on children, teachers and parents - now we have to ensure that good practice is spread across the country."

    Earlier in the year South West Essex PCT became the first health authority in the country to roll out PhunkyFoods across every school in its area.

    Melody Williams, head of health improvement for children and young people at South West Essex PCT, said: "PhunkyFoods has amassed a strong track record in delivering real health benefits without placing undue pressure on teachers or the curriculum. It's a great way of getting schools and individual teachers working together to help address the growing issue of childhood obesity."


    Issued on behalf of Purely Nutrition by Quest Public Relations. Media contacts are Nick Pickles or Joel Turner on 01423 564192.Out of hours please contact 07812 150417.

    For a copy of the research findings and report please contact Quest Public Relations.

    Further Information

    Quotes from pupils
    "I used to want chips every night, but now I only eat a little of that, and I want to eat fruit. I eat more healthy foods because once I started learning about it I noticed that I was going to get unhealthy."

    "You don't have to write things down. It's not like work. Normally when I do maths and things, I don't feel like I've learnt anything. But when you do PhunkyFoods you feel like you're learnt something. You're learning about what things happen to you. It's about you."

    Quotes from teachers
    "I just threw my PE plans out of the window! The resources and lesson plans are there for you. It would be fantastic as well if you really weren't sure what you were doing. You could just teach the lesson plan that's there. I think it's a great resource."

    "I think the best thing about PhunkyFoods is that there's such a varied choice of things to use - like the plastic food, picture cards, discussion cards, things to do on the computer, there's something for everyone; there isn't any child that learns in a particular way that isn't catered for."

    Quotes from parents
    "My son has come home saying things like 'Fish is good for your brain, it makes you cleverer', that comes from the school .... When we have tea, my son will point out if there's something missing from the 'balanced plate'."

    "I've always bought healthy food, but I think I do it more now because they ask for it. They didn't ask for it before. You would buy fruit and it would lie there. Now if the fruit bowl has gone down they ask for it. Before, they would have said 'can I get a lolly?"

    Notes to Editors

    About PhunkyFoods
    PhunkyFoods ( ) is a primary schools healthy eating programme now available nationally. Developed specifically for primary school children, the year-round curriculum-based programme helps ensure children learn fundamental life skills relating to nutrition, physical activity and food choice.

    Some of the country's top nutritionists and dieticians have helped develop the programme's content and it has been backed by key opinion formers involved in nutrition from the Department of Health to the Schools Food Trusts.

    From an initial roll out to 50 schools in Yorkshire in 2005, over 300 schools and 10 LEAs are now enrolled in PhunkyFoods.

    The programme was developed in 2005 by nutritional experts Purely Nutrition, in collaboration with anchor partner Northern Foods who provided advice and seed funding. A food industry consortium has now been created with Cargill/Frontier and Nestle, allowing PhunkyFoods to be extended more widely across the UK.

    About the National Foundation for Educational Research
    The NFER is the largest independent educational research institution in Europe and has been at the forefront of educational research and test development for over 60 years. The NFER undertakes around 200 research projects every year and spans all sectors of education, from pre-school to lifelong learning. The NFER's research contributes to Government policy and its expertise is recognised nationally and internationally

    Northern Foods
    Northern Foods are the anchor sponsors of the Phunky Foods programme and have supported the activity from the beginning. Northern Foods sponsors 13 schools at each of the following sites; Hull, Heanor, Kirkham and Nottingham, totalling 50 schools. The factory employees nominate which schools receive these free places and the sites host the teacher training day. Over the course of the academic year, the year 6 pupils visit the factory so they have a better understanding of what happens within a manufacturing site. The programme helps the students understand nutritional lifestyle as well as how a factory works.

    As well as supporting the development of the PhunkyFoods programme, Nestle supports 30 schools within the programme in the communities around nine of its sites, enabling local children to understand better the benefits of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Each Nestle site works with its local community to select schools to participate. For more information on Nestle in the UK, click on the following link:

    Cargill is an international provider of food, agricultural and risk management products and services. With 160,000 employees in 67 countries, the company is committed to using its knowledge and experience to collaborate with customers to help them succeed. For more information, visit

    Posted on 24th November 2008

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