Quietly but surely, there seems to be a pretty significant veg movement emerging in the UK and it must be something to which wholesale markets can give their wholehearted support.
On this site in recent months, we’ve featured The Food Foundations’ Veg Power campaign, which hopes to increase vegetable consumption across the age range in this country and a new league table for London restaurants launched by More Than Carrots to highlight the establishments that are giving their patrons the best experience with vegetables.
Last week, another organisation came to my attention. Proveg UK is striving for “a world where everyone chooses delicious and healthy food that is good for all humans, animals and our planet”. It’s another campaign that seeks to promote a plant-based diet and also aims to reduce consumption of animals by 50% by 2040.
I wouldn’t say I’m a natural cynic, though years receiving press releases and listening to agenda-driven rhetoric does tend to give you an aversion to percentage-figure claims that appear so ambitious. Amongst other things, I well remember the organic movement bombarding us with what turned out to be bogus claims that their preferred method of farming would take over the supermarket shelves, then the world. So Proveg’s “50% by 2040” aim leaves me a bit cold.
But in their defence, this is an aim rather than a claim, and I suppose if it’s an aim there’s no blame.
Where it’s impossible to blame anyone is for trying. New research released by Public Health England shows that obesity rates in children are at a record high in the UK, and ProVeg UK has called on schools to adapt their menus to tackle the growing threat to children’s health. Its School Plates campaign has identified primary schools and councils across the UK serving meals high in saturated fat and sugar, with little or no emphasis placed onto vegetables and the importance of more plant-based options.
The World Health Organisation has highlighted childhood obesity as one of the most important challenges of the 21st century. It identifies three ways to tackle the issue, two of which are being tackled by the government (reducing the intake of fat and sugar). The one which is not being tackled right now is the increased intake of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts.
ProVeg UK’s School Plates campaign asks schools to make five small changes, including having one meat-free day a week and increasing the amount of plant-based foods. The changes are neither difficult, nor time consuming to adopt and can be integrated into the next menu cycle with no disruption to the school.
The organisation is also offering free plant-based chef training and is offering schools the option of free consultations with a nutritionist to ensure the meals are healthy and nutritious.
Like the work of the Food Foundation and More Than Carrots, this approach could have a significant impact on the consumption of vegetables in the UK. No-one needs me to spell out the potential commercial advantages to this industry of these campaigns should they get even a small percentage of the way to achieving their goals. None of these campaigns sees supermarkets as the key driving force to raising sales – they all have direct relevance to wholesale market traders.
Strangely, the industry is lethargic at best when it comes to supporting independent initiatives like these, when in my opinion there is surely some sort of moral obligation to stand behind efforts to raise awareness of the benefits of eating more fresh produce. You can contact these organisations through the links in this blog, but I’d be extremely happy to facilitate an introduction for anyone who feels they want to get involved. Yes it takes a little bit of time and effort to get on board, but the rewards are great on so many levels.