The Vegemi stomach bacterium inspires children in viskari groups and preschool to add more vegetables on their plate

Tampere is testing the Vegemi food education method among children in pre-primary education and in viskari groups for five-year-olds. At the core of this method is a mobile application designed for children ages 3 to 8, which inspires children to learn about the health benefits of berries, vegetables and fruits and to add them to their plates.
A preschool-aged child is taking pictures of fruits and vegetables with a tablet’s camera and using the Vegemi application to identify them.
At Lentävänniemi school's preschool group B, the atmosphere was delighted when the children found out that Vegemi would be the topic of the day’s first lesson. The children solved puzzles and used the Vegemi app to identify vegetables.

The Vegemi food education method focuses on the adventures of Vegemi, a cartoon character resembling a good stomach bacterium. Different vegetables, fruits and berries give Vegemi superpowers, which are based on EU-approved claims about the health benefits of fruits and vegetables.

The City of Tampere launched Vegemi in preschools and for viskari groups at the start of 2024 as part of the Development Programme for Carbon Neutral Actions and the FUSILLI project. Food education during early childhood education is one way for the city to promote sustainable consumption and lifestyle in its own services.

– A vegetable-rich diet is the diet of the future. Vegemi is both an exciting food education method for children that aims to increase well-being and simultaneously a significant climate action by the City of Tampere. We believe that the city needs to support children and families' interest in eating fruit and vegetables, because of their undeniable health benefits and environmental benefits. Systematic food education starting in early childhood education is also an important way to reduce disparities in well-being. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with early childhood education and to make the Vegemi food education method available to all preschool and viskari groups, says Project Coordinator Elina Pulliainen from the City of Tampere.

More carrots and peppers found on plates

Vegemi is freely available for preschools and for viskari groups to use until the end of June. In addition to the application, the method includes food education materials meant for early childhood education. The materials consist of 10 food education themes, instructions on how to guide food education sessions, nutritional information, stories, logic puzzles, crafts, games and songs.

At Lentävänniemi school, preschool group B started using Vegemi at the start of 2024. Preschool teacher Iris Poutanen wanted to try Vegemi in her own group, as she has noticed in her work that children sometimes have challenges eating vegetables. According to Poutanen, a game that deals with positive food education is a genuinely effective way to get children to eat more fruits and vegetables.

– Vegemi has clearly had a positive effect on the children’s attitudes towards fruits and vegetables, and it has increased the children's willingness to eat them. For example, the children have learned that carrots and peppers are good for your eyesight, which is why, during one lunch break, they piled a lot of grated carrots on their plates, Poutanen says.

Two people holding Vegemi material and smiling. Behind them is a wall full of colouring pictures of fruits and vegetables..
In preschool, the children learned about fruits and vegetables that give the superpower of cleverness such as bananas, peas and oranges. The picture shows preschool teachers Iris Poutanen and Sauli Kulmala.

Only a fraction of children eats the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables

A study published in 2021 by the University of Turku showed that only one per cent of Finnish children between the ages of two and six ate the daily recommended amount of vegetables, fruits and berries.* It is important to learn to eat fruits and vegetables already as a child, as the foundation for human eating habits is formed early in childhood. Fruits and vegetables support a child’s healthy growth and development. The recommended amount of fruits and vegetables is roughly five fist-sized portions per day.

Vegemi is a product of Vegducation Oy, which spun off from Venner Oy, the company that developed the Vegemi app. The startup has received attention in Finland and abroad.

– Our Vegemi method combines food, welfare and eco education. Children are curious and affect their environment from a young age. We encourage children to understand the consequences of good choices and offer them fun experiences with Vegemi’s adventures, says Emilia Järvinen from Vegducation.

The children's comments on Vegemi:

Tauno, 7 yrs: Vegemi puzzles are fun!
Eetu, 7 yrs: Vegemi is a fun game.
Samuel, 7 yrs: Vegemi makes people want to try new vegetables.
Olivia, 6 yrs: I have learned that cucumbers are over 90 per cent water.
Niilo, 7 yrs: The best part of Vegemi is when carrots and peppers give you super vision power!

The Carbon Neutral Actions development programme invites residents and businesses to build a more sustainable everyday life together with the City of Tampere. The aim is to significantly reduce emissions from mobility and consumption, and to promote the circular economy and biodiversity. The Carbon Neutral Actions Development Programme will run from 2022 to 2025.
FUSILLI-hanke luotsaa eurooppalaisia kaupunkialueita kohti terveitä, kestäviä ja turvallisia ruokajärjestelmiä sekä tukee näitä edistävää kaupunkipolitiikkaa. FUSILLI-hanke saa rahoitusta Euroopan Unionin tutkimuksen ja innovoinnin Horisontti 2020 -puiteohjelmasta. Hankkeen kesto on 2021 – 2024.

Further information

Elina Pulliainen
Project coordinator
040 182 8773
Tiina Leinonen
Program Manager
041 730 6376
Riikka Salovaara
Varhaiskasvatusyksikön johtaja
040 806 3442
Text: Jutta Lajunen
Photos: Mimmi Virtanen
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