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A lack of veg in our diets is leading to premature deaths

New report shows stubbornly low levels of veg consumption in the UK. One third of children eat less than one portion a day and gap between how much veg the richest and poorest people in the UK are eating continues to widen. 

gpointstudio / Freepik

gpointstudio / Freepik

The Peas Please initiative, which works to make vegetables more appealing, accessible and affordable, releases its latest VEG FACTS 2021 report today. 

It found that both adults and children are still not consuming enough veg to meet the Government’s EAT WELL GUIDE recommendations. This is likely to have a long term impact on our health as diets that are low in vegetables and legumes have been associated with just under 18,000 premature deaths a year in the UK.

Both children and teenagers continue to be consuming far too few vegetables with 29% of 5-10 year olds eating less than a portion of veg a day and only 6% of 11-16 year olds eating the recommended amount of vegetables. There are also economic disparaties between total veg consumption; righest 20% on average eat one more portion of veg compared to the poorest 20%. 

The report also highlights that many children are actually getting their portions of vegetables from Ultra Processed foods (pizza and baked beans makes up 16% of veg intake), which are often high in salt, sugar and fat. 

The low vegetable intake is contributing to an increased risk of micronutrient deficiency; with 38% of children aged 11-16 with magnesium intakes, and 21% Vitamin A, below recommended levels. In the UK vegetables contribute >10% to consumption of these nutrients and could therefore be important sources of food to drive up micronutrient levels in children's diets. 

An increase in veg intake is key for improving the health of the nation, but it also has economic and climate benefits. If the population started to consume the recommended 5 a day of fruit and veg it would also support British farmers and would increase the value of UK veg production by £261 million as well as decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 8.2%.

 

Rebecca Tobi, Peas Please project manager said:

“Our latest report, Veg Facts 2021, finds that although there has been some really encouraging progress made since the launch of Peas Please four years ago we still have a long way to go before the UK truly becomes a veg-eating nation. Most concerningly, children’s veg consumption remains stubbornly low, and the gap between how much veg the richest and poorest people in the UK are eating continues to widen. Ahead of COP26, and with this year the UN’s designated International Year of Fruit and Vegetables, we are calling for innovative, bold and creative actions from businesses, governments and citizens to drive up vegetable consumption across the UK”

Read report

Peas Please is a partnership with The Food Foundation, Food Sense Wales,  Nourish Scotland, Belfast Food Network and Food NI. Our Sustainable Food Places Veg Cities campaign is run in partnership with Peas Please. Since the partnership launched 4 years ago it has delivered 162 million additional portions of vegetables into our food system working across all 4 nations.

Peas Please works with over 100 pledgers right across the food system and is today also announcing the finalists to their 2021 Peas Please awards. The Awards recognise the businesses and places that have gone above and beyond and are leading the way in terms of transforming their businesses to drive up vegetable consumption.   

The winners, including teh winner of the Veg Cities prize, will be announced on the 23rd June 2021 when the The Veg Summit will be broadcast from River Cottage and hosted by chef and writer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.    You can register for the event here.

Published 9 Jun 2021

Veg Cities: Veg Cities is a feature campaign of the Sustainable Food Cities led by food and farming charity Sustain in partnership with the wider Peas Please initiative led by the Food Foundation, Nourish Scotland, Food Cardiff and WWF.

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