A full trial with a large sample of schools is now planned in order to more fully evaluate the programme’s effectiveness.
The results come the week after Public Health England published its seven priorities for the next five years, with tackling childhood obesity chief among them.
Funded by Nestlé UK, headline research findings of the pilot study were revealed at an event in the House of Commons.
According to the findings, Year 2 pupils, aged six to seven, in schools delivering the programme had two percent higher physical activity knowledge scores than those in the control group.
Year 4 pupils, aged eight to nine, had five percent higher ‘healthy balance’ scores, based on knowledge of the Department of Health’s Eatwell Plate messages.
Fewer fizzy drinks
Year 4 pupils from schools delivering PhunkyFoods reported consuming more water and fruit, and fewer fizzy drinks.
Year 2 pupils said they consumed fewer fizzy drinks, chocolates, sweets, biscuits and cakes after receiving the PhunkyFoods programme.
The scheme is intended to be a convenient, inspirational and fun way for teachers to deliver innovative healthy eating and physical activity lessons.
The PhunkyFoods team helps more than 1,500 schools and their teachers to meet healthy lifestyles curriculum requirements, support inspection frameworks and organise teaching to include more healthy lifestyles material.
“Nearly one in 10 children are obese before they start school, and double that proportion are obese by the time they reach 11 years of age,” said Sorrell Fearnall, md of Purely Nutrition, which delivers the PhunkyFoods Programme.
“The reintroduction of food and cooking on the English national curriculum in 2014 goes some way to improving nutritional intake for young pupils. However, there is so much more that they could and should be learning about in terms of food and health.
‘We can make a difference’
“Our initial research findings demonstrate that by engaging with [school] children and teaching them about healthy lifestyles, we can really make a difference to attitudes and behaviours.”
Fiona Kendrick, chief executive and chairman, Nestlé UK & Ireland, said: “The Nestlé UK Healthy Kids Programme has been a supporting partner of the PhunkyFoods programme for more than six years as part of our global commitment to improve nutrition.
“With the growing scale of childhood obesity in the UK, we recognise the need for collective action in helping address some of the barriers to getting regular physical activity and establishing healthy eating habits early.
“We truly believe this type of education is a powerful tool to help children understand the values of healthy eating, nutrition and physical activity, enabling them to lead healthier lifestyles today and in the future.”
Ranjit Boparan, ceo, 2 Sisters Food Group, said: “We’re very proud to support PhunkyFoods both as a sponsor and by providing colleagues to actively engage with the programme. It’s so important to connect people, especially children, with the food they eat. PhunkyFoods provides a link between our colleagues and their local communities.
“Many of our people at site get involved, for example, by organising site visits for school children so they can see where their food is made.”