Melanie Fryer writes about her new role as a ‘Veg Advocate’ in this week’s food column

I joined Peas Please as a veg advocate in order to promote organic produce and work to increase the amount of organic, seasonal veg in this area. We know that we are not producing, advertising, selling, cooking and eating nearly enough veg and we know this is also causing ill health.

According to the Food Foundation, 20,000 lives could be saved every year in the UK by increasing our veg consumption.

As well as increasing the amount of UK veg grown and supplied locally and cutting down on imports, we need more organic veg which is grown without the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides – those that are harmful to both us and the environment.

As well as campaigning to increase access to local, organic veg for the home, the Peas Please campaign is also looking at the amount of veg used in ready meals, the veg that is offered in take outs, (such as in sandwiches), and how much local, seasonal veg is included on menus when we dine out.

Peas Please have now engaged over 70 Veg Advocates in England who are all working for a food system where everyone can access tasty, nutritious veg. Theyo will be running events over the next two years.

As Veg Advocates we have started discussing the barriers people face to accessing and eating more veg. These include: unhealthy options currently being more convenient; fast food proliferation; unhealthy foods being heavily promoted and often more affordable; provisioning of food (to food banks and schools) often lacking in veg options; our ‘supermarket culture’.

Alongside these barriers, healthier food tends to be more inconvenient – people may lack the skills/knowledge/time for preparing and using veg; veg aren’t promoted enough; affordability and access can be an issue; taste preferences (‘fussy’ children) may reduce the amount of veg a household eats, and limited access to land can limit the amount of veg grown.

As a Veg Advocate, over the next two years and beyond I am particularly interested in: 1). Making veg easily available when we’re out and about. 2.) Making organic veg accessible to all. 3). Education on the benefits of veg instead of unhealthy snacks. 4). Working with businesses to offer us more tasty veg. 5). Working with our district and county councils to look at land that could be available for market gardens or more allotments. 6). Reducing food waste. 7). Liaising with FoodFutures Community Food Skills working group to support food growing in schools and the supply of nutritious school meals.

References – for further reading…

The Growing Price Gap between More and Less Healthy Foods: Analysis of a Novel Longitudinal UK Dataset – Jones NRV, Conklin Al, Suhrcke M, Monsivais P (2014).

Veg Facts (Food Foundation 2016).

The Broken Plate 2020, Food Foundation (2020).

Veg Facts 2020 in brief, Peas Please (2020).

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