Current levels of vegetable consumption and production pose threat to children's health

15 November 2016

Nuffield-funded organisation the Food Foundation has published new statistics on consumption and production of vegetables that reveal a serious threat to children's health:

  • A quarter of secondary school age children eat less than one portion of veg a day. New government guidance indicates we should be eating about 7 portions of fruit and veg a day. Assuming half of these are veg, only 1:20 teens eat more than 3.5 portions a day. More than a third of the veg they do eat is highly processed which means that pizza and beans now contribute 17% of their veg intake.
  • We now rely on imports for 42% of the veg we eat (up from 17% 30 years ago) and along with other imported foods, prices are expected to start rising due to the drop in the value of sterling. Between 2007 and 2014 veg prices went up by 11% and people bought 5% less veg as a result. Those on a low income cut back more (2).
  • Our horticulture sector which already receives the lowest subsidy of all the farming sectors through the Common Agricultural Policy relies heavily on migrant labour, the future of which is now very uncertain. This uncertainty is likely to start to threaten the viability of some British horticulture businesses.

For the full story, download Veg Facts: A briefing by the Food Foundation

Peas Please

In light of these statistics, the Food Foundation has developed Peas Please, a new initiative to secure commitments from industry and government to improve the availability, acceptability (including convenience), affordability, and quality of the vegetable offer in shops, schools, fast food restaurants and beyond, and in turn stimulate increased vegetable consumption among the UK public, particularly children and those on a low income.

Our diets are leading to high levels obesity, type 2 diabetes and other diet-related disease and we need to eat more veg. The project will explore the levers along the supply chain which have the potential to increase vegetable consumption in a sustainable manner. Peas Please recognises that, to date, education programmes have not had the desired impact. So this project will focus on the wealth of opportunities there are, in the supply chain, for improving vegetable intake.

There are 5 peas in the Food Foundation's Peas Please Pod:

  • Pleasure – making our veg delicious whenever we eat it and connecting us to where our veg comes from
  • Producers –growing veg sustainably at all different scales
  • Prices that work for producers and consumers
  • Products – new ways of getting veg into what we buy and eat every day
  • Placement – more prominence in shops and on menus, more places to buy it in towns and cities

For more information visit the Peas Please website >>

England's first Food Environment Policy Index

The Food Foundation is also a contributing organisation to the development of the UK's first Food Environment Policy Index. Following a year-long process, involving 73 experts from 41 organisations, the Index ranks as top priority the need to reduce exposure of children to advertising of junk food.

Specifically, they call for banning of TV advertising of unhealthy food and drink up to the 9pm watershed, all forms of non-broadcast advertising of these food and drinks to children and stopping fast food and fizzy drink sponsorship of sports events such as the Olympics which are viewed by children.

The government’s Childhood Obesity Plan published in August this year takes no action on advertising. However, second and third priority in the Index were implementing the Soft Drinks Industry Levy and a reformulation programme for processed foods bought in supermarkets and in fast food chains. Both of these actions are being taken forward by government as part of the plan, but without action on advertising, their impact will be reduced. Nielsen AdDynamix data show that in 2015 less than 2% of food advertising spend went on fruit and vegetables compared to 20% on confectionery and snacks.

The Index comes just days after the latest round of national data on childhood obesity rates were published, which show obesity rates among 5 years olds and 11 year olds are still rising.