Fiona Sing is Policy and Public Affairs Officer at World Cancer Research Fund International.
Last week, over 40 public authorities, businesses, civil society organisations and academics announced their pledge to increase the consumption of vegetables in the UK as part of the ‘Peas Please’ initiative at the Vegetable Summit, which took place at three locations across the UK; Cardiff, Edinburgh and London (where we attended). The Peas Please initiative aims to increase the average consumption of vegetables across the UK in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders.
The need for more veg
The Peas Please initiative is led by The Food Foundation, an independent think tank leading the way in tackling challenges faced by the UK food system. Its research found that while most people are aware of the advice to eat five-a-day, in reality most people find it challenging to meet that target.
Who has signed up?
The summit showed that there is a growing consensus across the food industry that the consequences of not eating a healthy diet are too large to ignore, with obesity rates increasing at a dangerous rate. Food producers, manufacturers, promoters, suppliers, marketers, retailers and broadcasters in attendance all agreed that the issue of vegetable consumption was critical to the nation’s health and that they had a major role to play.
Some of the commitments made include:
- The UK’s Departments of Education and Department of Health committed to strengthen school and nursery food standards and make them mandatory.
- The Department of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs committed to enabling producers to increase the volume of British vegetable production through a New Sector Deal.
- The restaurant industry committed to increasing the number of portions of vegetables they offer, including in children’s meals.
- Retailers, such as Tesco, Lidl and Sainsbury’s, and manufacturers committed to re-evaluating the way they sell vegetables to drive increased consumption and to increasing the vegetables in ready meals.
- Broadcasters committed to improving the image of vegetables in children’s TV through developing guidelines for programme producers.
But will it work?
Measuring the success of the pledges is critical to ensure the initiative has the desired effect of increasing vegetable consumption. The failings of the UK Responsibility Deal, a voluntary pledge system similar to the Peas Please pledge initiative, are at the front of everyone’s minds. The UK Responsibility Deal did not have any way to enforce the pledges made by the private industry if they did not comply with the deal, and this impacted its long-term success.
To avoid repeating history, The Food Foundation is working with a leading team of experts to monitor the success of the pledges on an annual basis.
The annual review of the pledges, and the corresponding outcome report, could provide an important evidence base for other countries to consider initiating a similar approach as one part of a wider multi-sectoral strategy.
We look forward to seeing the progress made at next year’s Vegetable Summit and welcome stronger commitments from stakeholders as Peas Please evolves.
For examples of policies implemented around the world to promote healthy diets, see our NOURISHING database.