Fruit and Pledge sees kids collect 1,000 free swims

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One man’s idea to promote healthy eating in the Sudbury area has helped hundreds of children to eat more fruit and vegetables and collect 1,000 free swims in the process.

Such was the success of local firefighter Andy Message’s Fruit and Pledge scheme that there are now talks for it to be taken on by the retailers that took part for a regional or national scheme.

SUDBURY: Fruit and pledge results
 Winners St Joesph's primary school Beaconsfield Road
School Council celebrate with Cllrs Colin Spence and John Sayers, Watch commander Andy Message and Exc headteacher Maria Kemble.
Picture Mark Westley ANL-160607-111815009

SUDBURY: Fruit and pledge results Winners St Joesph's primary school Beaconsfield Road School Council celebrate with Cllrs Colin Spence and John Sayers, Watch commander Andy Message and Exc headteacher Maria Kemble. Picture Mark Westley ANL-160607-111815009

“I’m delighted so many parents and kids got into the scheme,” said Mr Message, who lives in Ballingdon, Sudbury.

“The longer term plan is to give the retailers food for thought. To think, could they make this a permanent part of their packaging? It’s something for their marketing teams to think about.

“I know some of the retailers expressed a real desire to take this forward on a bigger scale.”

The idea of the scheme, led by Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service and Suffolk County Council, was to label fruit and vegetables with collectible stickers which carried designs of superheroes and other popular characters.

These stickers could be put onto a reward card, which when full, could be exchanged for a free swim at the Kingfisher Leisure Centre in Sudbury.

Schools from Sudbury and the surrounding area took part, with children able to collect the stickers at several shops and market stalls in the town and neighbouring villages.

Mr Message said he would be open to the scheme returning to Sudbury after the amount of public support he had received for it, but warned he would need a lot more volunteers due to the workload involved, particularly in labelling the fruit.

One store which is actively looking into taking up Mr Message’s scheme is The Co-op.

The company’s Canhams Road store in Great Cornard took part in the project and community pioneer at the shop Roger McCartney has since passed it up to management, discussing the possibility of taking it forward with his chief executive and marketing director.

He said: “I thought it was a fantastic scheme. It was lovely to see the support from the public.

“Serving on the tills, I would ask parents with children if they were collecting the stickers and pretty much everyone said they were.

“There seemed to be massive interest in it. I think it was a fantastic idea of Andy’s. A very innovative way of dealing with the problem of child obesity.

“I am speaking to the bigwigs about trying to take the scheme forward nationwide and they are showing a huge amount of interest in it.

“I hope we can do this, but how we would do it remains to be seen.”

“I think it’s fantastic that one person can come up with this and manage to see it right through. We don’t know how far it will go.”

“It’s such an amazing idea which I don’t think has been done anywhere else.”

One parent who supports the scheme is Louise Orbell. She said her fridge was now packed with fruit with the whole family joining in after her seven year-old daughter began taking part and collecting the stickers.

“My daughter absolutely loved it, she eats fruit every night now. It’s done her the world of good,” said Mrs Orbell. “The novelty of collecting the stickers encouraged her. I’ve never bought so much fruit.”