Skip to Main navigation Skip to Left navigation Skip to Main content Skip to Footer

University of Minnesota Extension

Extension > Family > Health and Nutrition > Go Wild > Go Wild with Fruits & Veggies! > Research

Print Icon Email Icon Share Icon

Go Wild

Go Wild with Fruits & Veggies! Research

Go Wild with Fruits & Veggies! was developed using the following research findings.

Children and obesity/overweight is a growing concern.

child on scaleAccording to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, 34% of children ages 6-11 are considered overweight (Ogden, Carroll, & Flegal, 2008). In the last thirty years, the number of overweight children and adolescents is estimated to have increased 100%. These figures are based on a body mass index for that age group that is at 85% or higher.

Children do not eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.

fruits and veggies

National dietary intake data (1999-2000) showed that a low proportion of American children met the recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake (Guenther, Dodd, Reedy, & Krebs-Smith, 2006). Minnesota state-level data mirror this trend. In 2007, only about 20% of Minnesota sixth graders reported eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day (Minnesota Center for Health Statistics). Additionally, only 48% of Minnesota sixth graders reported being active at least five days a week.

Cartoon characters can positively affect children’s behavior through modeling.

becky blue bear

According to past research, fruit and vegetable intake increased among 5-11 year old children after modeling by cartoon characters (Horne, Taper, Low, Hardman, Jackson, & Woolner, 2004). Animal cartoon characters have been used as models to depict human behaviors and emotions in children’s literature (Zeece, 1998). Previous surveys with children have shown positive attitudes about nature and the environment (Bonnett and Williams, 1998). Furthermore, a recent review indicated that tailoring of printed materials to promote health behavior changes was successful when participants engaged in experience-based, realistic activities (Noar, 2007). Therefore, a focus on animal characters within their natural environment may provide motivation and reinforcement for learning about personal habits regarding nutrition and physical activity. Using animal characters indigenous to the region where students live may enhance relevance and interest.

Rather than a textbook, Go Wild flip books with large, colorful graphics were created to further engage the students. [See a sample flip book (18 MB PDF)]. Each flip book features a Go Wild animal character with a catchy name and unique personality to match. This helps reinforce learning because the children can identify the character with their nutritional benefits. Each animal character identifies one of the five color groups of fruits and vegetables and learns about the nutritional benefits of that particular color group, along with the students. Meet the Go Wild Bunch.

To be successful, nutrition programs need to focus on encouraging children to make lifestyle changes...they need to involve others around them and be fun!

girl exercising

According to renowned health researchers Abood, Black, and Coster (2008), to change their health behavior children need short-term educational efforts that increase nutrition knowledge, form positive behavioral intentions to improve diet and physical activity, and incorporate the influence of peers/family into obesity prevention. According to those authors, school-based nutrition education studies have indicated that minimal intervention had a positive effect on nutrition knowledge and behavioral interventions to eat in a more healthful way. The authors also found that schools are a natural setting for reaching out to large groups of children. Finally, the more interesting those school programs are, the more effective they will be. Health researcher Sussman concluded in her Handbook of Program Development for Health Behavior Research & Practice (2001) that if the program is of interest to the participants, they are likely to attend to the information presented.

The Go Wild with Fruits & Veggies! program offers a social marketing campaign and a seven-lesson curriculum ideal to be used in a school classroom setting. To assure learning in the classroom setting is interesting, lessons are designed to engage students with fun physical activities, many of which involve music and dance. Our initial evaluation of the program found that students remain focused during other parts of the lesson, but they really enjoy the activities that involve music and movement. Every lesson includes experiential learning with a tasting and/or cooking component. Read how Go Wild engages students, parents, teachers, and school foodservice staff.

To reinforce physical activity and increase ownership, the daily physical activity of the class as a whole is charted on a classroom poster — Walk to the Headwaters (23 MB PDF). Likewise, every student’s consumption of fruits and vegetables is charted on a classroom poster — Go Wild Tracker (4 MB PDF). To engage families, Family Newsletters (506 K PDF) and Go Wild Challenges (600 K PDF) are sent home after each lesson. Students and their families can shop, prepare, and eat foods together using featured recipes.

Does Go Wild with Fruits & Veggies! really work?

logoGo Wild with Fruits & Veggies! has been tested with the audience to assure that it is effective and relevant. We piloted this program in 3rd-5th grade classrooms between September 2008 and June 2009. It was evaluated in both rural (n=1,285 children) and urban (n=140 children) schools in Minnesota. The research found that overall students reported increasing their fruit and vegetable intake as well as their physical activity level after completing the Go Wild program. The research also confirmed that students found the Go Wild program (activities, tastings, etc.) fun and interesting and that they related well to the Go Wild animal characters. We are continuing to evaluate this program.

If you have some feedback to give about this program, please contact us.

You may also be interested in the anecdotal evidence for this program. Hear what others are saying about Go Wild with Fruits & Veggies!

More Go Wild Resources

Related Resources

Nutrition for the Underserved: The Implications — Results from focus groups with limited resource individuals. Highlights implications for four different cultural groups.

Family Development Research — See more of our applied research and program evaluation projects.


Abood, D. A., Black, D. R., & Coster, D. C. (2008, May-June). Evaluation of a school-based teen obesity prevention minimal intervention. Journal of Nutrition Education Behavior, 3(40), 168-174.

Bonnett, M., & Williams, J. (1998). Environmental education and primary children’s attitudes towards nature and the environment. Cambridge Journal of Education, 28(2), 159-174.

Guenther P. M., Dodd, K. W., Reedy, J., & Krebs-Smith, S.M. (2006). Most Americans eat much less than recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 106(9), 1371-1379.

Horne, P. J., Tapper, K., Lowe, C. F., Hardman, C. A., Jackson, M. C., & Woolner, J. (2004). Increasing children’s fruit and vegetable consumption; A peer-modeling and rewards-based intervention. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 58(12), 1649-1660.

Horne, P .J., Lowe, C. F., Bowdery, M. A., & Egerton, C. (1998). The way to healthy eating for children. British Food Journal, 100(3), 133-140.

Minnesota Center for Health Statistics — Minnesota Department of Health (2007). 2007 Minnesota student survey statewide tables.

Noar, S., Benac, C., & Harris, M. (2007). Does tailoring matter? Meta-analytic review of tailored print health behavior change interventions. Psychological Bulletin, 133(4), 673-693.

Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., & Flegal, K. M. (2008). High body mass index for age among US children and adolescents, 2003-2006. JAMA, 299, 2401-2405.

Sussman, S. (2001). Handbook of program development for health behavior research & practice.

Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Zeese, P.D. (1998). Animal antics in children’s literature. Early Childhood Education Journal, 26, 35-38.

  • © Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
  • The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy