Croydon Council is set to embark on a two-year initiative to encourage healthy eating and tackle childhood obesity with the introduction of the award-winning PhunkyFoods programme pioneered by Harrogate-based Purely Nutrition.
The programme will be targeted at primary schools in the borough in areas of greater deprivation. It will deliver key messages on healthy eating through a variety of fun activities to hundreds of children aged from three to 11. The activities will also be rolled out in six special schools and 20 pre-schools.
PhunkyFoods, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, is now used in 2050 primary schools in the UK. The award-winning concept was the idea of registered nutritionist Dr Jennie Cockroft, director of nutrition with Purely Nutrition, and managing director Sorrell Fearnall.
The council’s decision to appoint PhunkyFoods follows on from a number of healthy-eating and physical activity initiatives already undertaken with schools. The council is committed to reducing health inequalities and increasing life-expectancy in the borough, which is also a key part of the five-year Croydon Heart Town project to fight coronary heart disease.
Mike Robinson, director of public health Croydon said: We are excited about working with PhunkyFoods on this innovative project. They have a proven record of success in helping children to learn about healthy eating in a fun and creative way. Obesity in children and adults is a growing concern across the country and interventions at an early age can help to prevent long-term health problems.
The wider benefit to the community is also one of the reasons why we chose PhunkyFoods to deliver this project, which builds on work we have previously carried out in Croydon schools. Teachers will be encouraged to engage parents and this will mean that the whole family can learn to eat better to improve their overall health and wellbeing.
Dr Cockroft said: There is a growing public awareness of the benefits to be gained from a healthy lifestyle which is why the PhunkyFoods programme is playing an increasingly important role in putting across key messages to children at an early age.”
To coincide with the launch of the programme PhunkyFoods is appointing a community support worker in Croydon who will play a key role in the implementation of the programme in the schools and also help teachers engage with parents.
Primarily, the role will be to train schools in the PhunkyFoods programme but also liaise with the council on lifestyle initiatives
What is particularly encouraging is the fact that this is a two-year project which shows that the council is taking a long-term view and recognises that it takes time to change dietary habits.
Dr Cockroft added that children aged from three to 11 were more receptive to new ideas and excited to learn through PhunkyFoods activities which include art, drama, music, play and practical experience with food.
Dr Cockroft: PhunkyFoods encourages children from a young age to develop healthy eating habits which they continue with into early adulthood and often teach their parents about the need to consider healthier eating options.
Main Photograph: A group of primary school children enjoying a healthy eating experience with PhunkyFoods Dr Jennie Cockroft (left) and Sorrell Fearnall.