Guest Blog: The Rewards Project – transforming the way we reward children

Guest Blog: The Rewards Project – transforming the way we reward children

James GoolRP 2nik is a practicing dentist and a member of the British Dental Association. Having worked in the same practice for over 17 years, he has witnessed first-hand how sugar damages teeth on a daily basis. 

In our latest guest blog, James discusses his new venture; The Rewards Project, a charity dedicated to transforming the rewards culture. His mission is to change the way society rewards children with sugar for healthier alternatives…

What is the Rewards Project?

Rewards Project is a charity put together by practising dentist James Goolnik. Our mission is to transform how we reward our children. Along with James, our team of professionals include, General Practitioner Dr. Joanne McCormack, Nutritionist Kyla Newcombe, Psychologist Dr Simon Moore, and TV chef Giancarlo Caldesi.

We are working with schools and nurseries to shift the rewards culture away from sweets and chocolates towards sugar-free, non-food solutions. Our school partnerships aim to stop children associating sugar with good behaviour or performance.

Through our work, our children will positively benefit from life-long healthy eating habits.


The current issues with rewards…

We all like to be appreciated. But when we reward our children, we need to think carefully about what we use as rewards. All too often, the default reward for children is unhealthy food, fizzy drinks and sweets as a way of rewarding accomplishments.

In reality, these rewards have zero nutritional value and because they are easy to access and inexpensive, the hidden negatives are that these types of rewards can affect short-term behaviour change.

What’s more, offering bad food as a reward also teaches children to eat when they are not hungry – an easily formed habit that could continue for a lifetime. By using negative food sources also shows children that achievements are marked only by eating and this can undermine healthy nutrition practices that are taught at home or at school.

This problem goes beyond schools; it is also an issue in the workplace and at home. For example, ‘cake culture’ at work. Just like schools, whenever a staff member has a birthday, we associate it with sweet treats and cake. We want to shift the way we think about sugar and help the UK see there are fun, healthier alternatives to celebrate birthdays and positive accomplishments.


What have we done so far?

So far, we’ve have put together a Rewards Review survey for schools and nurseries to find out how much sugar is in their children’s typical school day. We’ve analysed results from 487 schools and found some interesting results. Take a look at our results here.

We’ve also helped pupils put together their own Sugar Awareness presentations in schools and supplied them with Rewards Project badges and fun, informative infographics.

We are currently writing a charity cookbook with the help of TV Chefs Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi. The 14-day Sugar Challenge cookbook will feature 14-days’ worth of low-sugar recipes, helpful score sheets to see how you’re doing, and a deeper look at the history and effects of sugar in the body. Sign up to our newsletter over at to find out when the cookbook is ready to pre-order.


What policy change we would like to see?

After studying the results from our Rewards Review survey, we found that schools were offering sweets, cakes and puddings an average of FOUR times per week. We would love to see a policy put in place that reduces this to just once per week.

This one small change would show teachers and parents how much of a difference it could really make on their children’s health and wellbeing.


What services do we offer and where can people can get involved?

We have a free quiz that the whole family can take to see how much sugar is in their lives.

You can take the quiz here ( We also offer schools, homes and workplaces lots of resources to help them think beyond sugar. For schools we offer pupils fun infographics and Rewards Badges for presentations.

We also promote our 14-day sugar challenge for people to take part in at work and at home. Sign up to our newsletter at to find out when our next challenge is!


Visit our website here: or follow us on twitter @RewardsProject to stay up to date with the campaign!

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