The first-ever Vegetable Summit took place last week with three concurrent events in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff to galvanise commitments designed to increase the UK’s consumption of vegetables under the Peas Please initiative. PBUK reports.
During the summit, in excess of 40 pledges were made by leading retailers, restaurateurs, caterers, producers, wholesalers, manufacturers, government representatives and public authorities, who promised to play their part in helping Britons eat an extra portion of veg a day by 2020.
“This is the beginning of the journey, a three-year process from 2017 to 2020,” explained Anna Taylor OBE, the chief executive of The Food Foundation which has spearheaded the Peas Please campaign.
“We have had a huge number of contributions; some pledges have been amazing, and some represent baby steps but what’s important is the commitment [shown].
“We hope those pledges will become more ambitious and that we receive many more in order to deliver real impact.”
According to Kantar Worldpanel, current shopping habits indicate UK shoppers’ baskets contain just 7.2% of vegetables per day, while government dietary guidance recommends that vegetables should account for 20% of our daily diet.
With initiatives like 5-a-Day having had little impact, the Food Foundation, together with WWF-UK, Nourish Scotland and Food Cardiff, has brought together stakeholders from over 90 organisations across the food system to develop the Peas Please campaign in a bid to increase consumption.
The scheme aims to drive a significant shift in the vegetable supply chain to improve the nation’s health and tackle diet-related disease, while supporting British growers and helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Taylor said the actions taken for the Peas Please pledges will be monitored with the support of Professor Martin White from the University of Cambridge, Kantar Worldpanel, PwC and WRAP.
The Fresh Produce Centre in the Netherlands has also pledged to share best practices learned from its own national action plan to increase fruit and vegetable consumption.
“We have quite a lot of building blocks in place to ensure that the pledges made are not empty promises,” Taylor pointed out, adding that the Food Foundation will also share information on strategies that work.
“The pledges will be monitored carefully and built upon so next year’s summit is even bigger and better. Then we can really start to talk about that impact we’re having collectively and set our ambitions even higher”.
Food Foundation Facts
– 20,000 lives could be saved if Brits ate one more portion of vegetables
– 80% of adults are not eating enough veg
– 95.5% of children aged 11-16 years old are not eating enough veg
– Brits only get half a portion of veg for every three meals eaten out
– 3.5 portions of veg a day would equate to 1.5m tonnes more veg produced in the UK a year.
Health system under strain
The host of the London-based Vegetable Summit Sheila Dillon – a food journalist and radio presenter for The Food Programme – said the “courage and ideas” shared at the event marked the beginning of an effort to apply best thinking to a serious problem.
“For a long time this country hasn’t valued veg,” she claimed. “Our diet is sickening us and killing us, while bankrupting the NHS.”
“This isn’t a consumer issue – it’s a system problem. Lots of people want to eat more veg but they can’t afford them, they can’t find them or they don’t know what to do with them.”
Keynote speaker Dr Dawn Harper, an NHS, private and media doctor, as well as a presenter for TV programme Embarrassing Bodies, said she was “genuinely scared” about the health of the UK public and the impact of “lifestyle illnesses” on the NHS.
“Diabetes could bankrupt the NHS in our lifetime,” she warned.
“In the NHS we spend £1m every single hour managing diabetes and we know 95% is Type 2 diabetes and the vast majority is [classed as] a lifestyle illness.
“There are 400 new cases of Type 2 diabetes a day. You don’t need to be politician, mathematician or businessman to understand the system is under major strain.”
Dr Harper added that everyone has a responsibility to act.
“We all have to use every single angle we possibly can to try to improve the health of the nation and the way people live,” she said.
Dr Harper has just finished writing a book called ‘Live Well Till 100’ for which she interviewed various centenarians all with striking lifestyle factors in common.
“Two things struck me,” she noted. “One, they moved – this is a generation pre-motorcar; and two, they ate seasonally, from the land.
“I think vegetables are the future.”