Veg Cities launched in June 2018, following pilots in Cardiff, Birmingham and Brighton & Hove. There are now 15 Veg Cities, we asked Project Co-ordinator and Eating Better Trustee – Sofia Parente to tell us more, this is what she had to say.
At a time when our vegetable consumption is in decline and is no better than it was in the 1970s, local areas are coming up with ingenious ideas to increase availability and consumption.
Over 80% of us are not eating the recommended 3.5 daily portions of vegetables and people on lower incomes eat half a portion less than wealthier people. We are wasting too much: fresh vegetables and salads make up 19% of household food waste, worth £1.7 billion. Diets that are low in vegetables are associated with more than 20,000 premature deaths across the UK. On the other hand, eating one more portion, while reducing meat consumption, could reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by almost a fifth. If veg consumption increased in line with dietary guidance, the UK would have the chance to grow more veg, which would contribute to the economic growth of the sector. At the city level, small-scale community food growing and urban agriculture projects can contribute to increased access to veg as well as provide benefits to the individual for mental health and wellbeing and levels of physical activity. They can encourage the growth of the local food economy and develop skills and the improved employability amongst participants.
Growing and eating more vegetables can offer a triple win: a win for our health, a win for our carbon footprints and environment and a win for the local economy.
Successful pilots in Cardiff, Birmingham and Brighton & Hove demonstrated what is possible, with over 15 cities now involved. Glasgow and Nottingham launched campaigns in August and others are preparing to start their campaigns.
Cities such as Bournemouth and Sheffield will concentrate their efforts in areas of higher deprivation and will set up veg stands, cooking classes for the community, growing spaces and improve the uptake of Healthy Start Vouchers (which subsidise vegetables). Cardiff, Nottingham and others are ensuring their holiday schemes serve two portions of vegetables in every meal; ensuring children who are entitled to free school meals don’t miss out on healthy food during the holidays.
Others such as Oxford are linking with the need for less and better meat consumption by asking their restaurants and caterers to promote vegetarian dishes in their menus. Oxford is also developing a cooking session framework and behaviour change evaluation model for cooking for plant-based meals, especially targeting people on low income.
Many places are working to get pledges from public sector catering, retailers and restaurants to increase the number of portions they serve and coming up with their own concepts for promoting vegetables to younger audiences. For example Brighton and Hove will develop a ‘Veg the Star of the Plate’ concept and training materials for schools and early years catering and education staff and Birmingham will roll out the ‘Seed to Plate’ scheme to 300 schools through which pupils learn to grow and cook veg.
Others will grow more and will work towards getting more locally grown vegetables into local supply chains and recruit more volunteers such as refugees into growing projects. Glasgow, for example, will work to get food growing recognised as a legitimate use in the future City Development Plan so more land is released, establish a Growers Cooperative, get more locally grown vegetables into local restaurants and shops, organise pop up markets and ‘Meet the Grower’ events and a 'Chef Challenge' competition to come up with the best local food dish using ingredients from community and market gardens.
Collectively, the campaign aims at getting hundreds of gardens across the UK involved in a Big Dig Day next spring to kick off food growing for the season and help them measure how much vegetables they grow in 2019.
Veg Cities will promote vegetable consumption and waste reduction throughout schools, events and festivals and will be joining forces with Veg Power, a national marketing campaign, part of the umbrella of Peas Please, to display vegetable adverts later this year.
How can you get involved?
If you or your organisation are involved in growing, cooking, selling or saving vegetables, we would like to hear from you. Click here and register to run a campaign in your local area, register what action you are taking or sign up to receive information about the campaign.
Veg Cities is a feature campaign of the Sustainable Food Cities, a growing network of over 50 cities and local areas working to transform their food and food culture. The campaign is led by Sustain in partnership with the wider Peas Please initiative.
[Photo from Sustainable Food Cities. The campaign was announced at the Sustainable Food Cities annual conference this June.]