The UK Vegetable Summit, a national event which took place at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh recently, has cast a light on the shocking statistics surrounding vegetable consumption in this country. 

The event set out to challenge the way we see vegetables and aims to significantly increase the average person’s portion within their diet.

The summit has been welcomed by the government as they set to tackle all the problems associated with a poor diet, with organisations on hand to do everything they can to rid the country of this problem.

On average, one in four secondary school children and 13 per cent of primary school children consume less than half a portion of veg a day, and 50 per cent of adults are eating less than the average of 2.3 portions a day*, despite extensive efforts to improve this.

The consumption of vegetables is something that we are reminded to improve on regularly, however numerous campaigns have been unable to make a lasting effect.

The well-known ‘5 A Day’ campaign was shown to increase the awareness of the problem but didn’t manage to have a lasting
effect in altering people’s diets, and so as a result, we are still consuming the same amount of veg as we were back in the mid-1970s*.

We are told that this is a problem and we need to change it, but why?

Figures show that diets low in veg were associated with more than 20,000 premature deaths across the UK*.

The UK has the second highest rate of obesity in Europe, with one in four adults now obese, causing a huge amount of strain on the NHS.

The costs associated with being overweight or obese amount to £6.1billion every year for the NHS and £27billion for the wider community*, but by making a few changes, it can considerably change the general heath outlook for the wider population.

It is in light of this that the UK Veg Summit started its campaign.

Speaking at the UK Veg Summit, Carina Contini is one of Scotland’s best-known female chefs, and runs three Edinburgh restaurants with her husband Victor; Contini George Street, Cannonball Restaurant & Bar and The Scottish Cafe & Restaurant.

Carina said: “Eating seasonal local vegetables benefits our health, our environment, our wallets, our NHS and our local communities. It’s our job as parents, members of Slow Food and restaurateur’s to champion healthy eating and vegetables and fruit have to play a key part in this.”

The UK Veg Summit, which is taking place across the UK, in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh, is aiming to address these problems and encourage businesses to make pledges on the
changes that they are making to increase average veg consumption.

In a YouGov poll, 79 per cent of the participants expressed that they would like to eat more fruit and veg, with 44 per cent wanting more veg when eating out, so they are now looking at ways to make this more accessible.

One particular way is by encouraging the hospitality industry to update their menus to include more veg options, and instead of making vegetables a ‘side dish’, make it the main feature of dishes.

Carina added: “Chefs and restaurateurs need to do more to
incorporate the veg we have on our doorstep into our menus and give people more choice.

“Vegetables are exciting. If we can learn to cook (and prepare them raw) well they are fabulous and an integral part of a healthy diet.”

By introducing more portions of vegetables into the everyday diet it can help protect us against coronary heart disease, deaths from cardiovascular disease and deaths of all-causes*.

Carina believes that the UK Veg Summit is the perfect opportunity to raise and discuss these issues.

There will be a number of company representatives attending the event, who all play a huge part in the hospitality industry. From Sodexo, a world-wide catering organisation, to Union of Genius, an Edinburgh based soup café promoting veg consumption through a range of super soups, the topic of vegetable consumption will be discussed, with pledges being announced which will have significant effect in the average vegetable consumption.

This is the first considerable campaign since the ‘5 A Day’ campaign and it is set to challenge the attitudes towards vegetables and ultimately improve the health of the nation.

If we were to eat the recommended intake of fruit and veg every day, and maintained the proportion that we import, whilst tackling veg waste, we could see the demand of British grown veg increase
by 1.5 million tonnes, which is good news for British farmers and the economy as a whole.

The Vegetable Summit is part of Peas Please, an initiative led by The Food Foundation, Nourish Scotland, WWF-UK and Food Cardiff.

• For more information, visit:
www.nourishscotland.org/projects/peas-please

*For more information in regards to the figures used in this article please visit the Peas Please Veg Facts Publication, which can be found here.

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