Raisin Awareness

Raisin Awareness (Jo Dawson)

I’m not special, I’m not unique. I’m a dental nurse and I’m proud to say it!

Similar to many members of BSDHT, I have enjoyed voluntarily visiting local pre-schools and schools to offer oral health education (OHE) to the children.

However, when my children started primary school, I was shocked to discover that over two million children, in 16,600 primary schools in England, are given raisins and sultanas as a snack six times a year, as part of the government-funded School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (SFVS). Which, as we are all well aware, goes against the advice in Delivering Better Oral Health: an evidence-based toolkit for prevention. Furthermore, because of this scheme, in many schools it is permitted for the children to bring to school dried fruit and other cariogenic snacks from home, every day.

Shocked by this, I was galvanised into action. Initially, I naively thought that a quick word to SFVS and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) would result in a withdrawal of dried fruits from the scheme. I had no idea what was to come!

Both SFVS and DHSC responded. DHSC considered that although it is not in line with broader government advice that dried fruit should be consumed with a meal to reduce the risk of tooth decay, due to logistical problems they could not deliver fresh fruit to 16,600 schools on the first day of every half term. Furthermore, as it was only six times a year, they did not believe that this occasional consumption would promote the more general overconsumption of dried fruit, or pose an undue additional risk of tooth decay.

Their response was the catalyst for my campaign, ‘Raisin Awareness’.

The aim of Raisin Awareness is:

  • To end dried and processed fruit snacks in primary schools;
  • To improve the oral health of children in primary schools;
  • To link dental practices with primary schools;
  • To supply regular oral health education literature to all pupils.

By linking dental practices with primary schools, in the vicinity, and funding fresh vegetable alternatives to dried fruit on the first day of every half term, Raisin Awareness opens up the way for each school to change their snack policy. Attempting to reduce health-related inequalities further could be achieved by targeting schools in relation to where they sit on the index of multiple deprivation. 

A pilot

Raisin Awareness has successfully implemented a pilot study: Devonshire House Dental Practice in Cambridge has been sponsoring the raisin swap for 164 children. Local vegetable delivery was sourced, and the school governors were subsequently able to change the whole school snack policy. Regular OHE is now being supplied to more than 300 pupils.

Given the great success of this, Raisin Awareness wants to give more dental practices the opportunity to join in.

Would you like to get your practice on board?  

Is your practice:

  • Family friendly?
  • Already promoting a culture of prevention?
  • Caring about your local community?
  • Interested in making a difference to children’s oral health nationally?
  • Ready to see the benefits from offering staff an opportunity to expand and develop their individual roles?
  • Looking to invest in a different type of marketing?
  • If you join in, as well as getting great local publicity, satisfaction and feel-good factor, an added bonus is that your practice logo and contact details will appear on the OHE handouts. Plus, link up creates opportunities for school visits.

    Register your interest here: https://smilerevolutiongrowthhub.com/who-we-work-with/

    Two not so sweet facts!
    1. Three school days, on average, are missed yearly due to dental problems.
    2. Covid-19 has prevented many children accessing routine care and the incidence of disease has increased across the whole population.

    Now, it is more important than ever, that we utilise our knowledge and skills to make an impact.

    National support for the campaign is growing and Raisin Awareness does not want dental practices to pay for first day vegetables indefinitely. We are continually working with our partners to change government policy with on-going lobbying of DHSC to stop SFVS giving out dried fruit as snacks.

    I would like to thank everyone who has supported the campaign so far and give a particular mention to Victoria Wilson at Smile Revolution for use of her website page and Philips for sponsoring my place on the Oral Health Promotion Project course.

    Amongst the dental community we have support from BSDHT, BDA, OHF, BSPD, BADT and BADN.

    We are also working with Sustain and a group of interested parties to expand and improve the SFVS for everyone.

    Exciting times!  

     Look out for a social media campaign coming soon.






    About the author:

     Jo is a dental nurse and mum. For over 30 years, in NHS and private dental practices, with GDPs and specialists, Jo has loved working chairside. She has experience as a dental nurse tutor and an oral health educator, and is currently employed at Devonshire House Dental Practice, Cambridge. Pre-Covid she regularly visited pre-schools and primary schools to offer OHE, and worked as an NEBDN associate assisting with practical OSCE national dental nursing examinations. Jo is a member of BADN and BSPD.




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