Peas Please: A partnership on a mission to get us eating more veg

Rebecca Tobi

Rebecca joined The Food Foundation in January 2020, leading on the Peas Please initiative. Rebecca is a registered associate nutritionist with a background in science communication and public affairs and joins The Food Foundation from the Nutrition Society.

Peas Please is a UK-wide partnership with a clear mission. We want to make it easier for everyone in the UK to eat more veg. To do this we bring together partners from across the food system – from farmers and retailers, to restaurant chains, caterers and manufacturers – all with the common goal of increasing vegetable consumption.

Shifting dietary habits is never easy, but we are aiming to change the UK’s low consumption of veg by working with a variety of different actors from across the food system to make vegetables more readily available, accessible and appealing. We are seeking to address the shortcomings of the many healthy eating campaigns that have previously tried (rather unsuccessfully!) to increase the UK's vegetable consumption by focusing on education alone, instead of working to change the entire veg environment. 

Our latest Progress Report looks at what we’ve achieved over the past 12 months and outlines the steps that will need to be taken if the UK is to become a veg-eating nation.

2020-21 highlights

  • We hit a milestone of 100 UK organisations making a veg pledge to grow, serve or sell more veg. There are now 105 Peas Please pledgers.
  • Over the past four years, our pledger community have cumulatively served and sold an additional 636 million portions of veg – a whopping 300% increase on 2019/2020 
  • We’ve recruited 180 Veg Advocates from across the UK, citizens who are now working with us across the length of the country to boost vegetable intake in their local communities

A tale of two sectors

With Covid-19 continuing to impact on food businesses, our Peas Please pledgers have had quite different years depending on what sectors they operate in.

We’ve been delighted to see many of our retail pledgers refresh and update their commitments to the scheme this year, with new SMART targets for increasing sales of veg now in place. Five of our retailer pledgers have also supported the government’s Healthy Start scheme over the past year, helping to make fruit and veg budgets for low income families stretch further by topping up the funds families received.

Although restaurant and catering businesses were less able to make progress given restrictions as a result of Covid, we ran a small survey with 19 of our pledgers from the Out of Home (OOH) sector to see what their plans are for boosting veg intake in the UK as they rebuild and recover. We found that:

  • 90% reported that they anticipate that health and sustainability will be more important for their business following the pandemic
  • 79% have plans to redesign their menus with more plant-based options - when asked what type of plant-based options they will be focusing on, pulses, legumes and vegetables came out on top
  • 75% reported their business is intending to make new public commitments for improving health and/or sustainability and to increase the vegetable content in their menus

This represents a promising opportunity for programmes like Veg Power and Peas Please to work with the OOH sector in 2022 to support a renewed commitment to veg.

What next?

While we have seen promising progress made by our Peas Please pledgers, we need bolder actions and more reporting transparency from organisations across the food sector if we are to improve the nation’s consumption of veg.

It remains to be seen whether some of the opportunities that the pandemic offered certain groups of people, such as being able to spend more time sourcing and cooking healthier food such as veg, will be maintained as citizens gradually return to more normal habits.

Action must therefore be taken by both Government and businesses to change the veg environment. Among the Peas Please pledging community tangible actions that can be taken to support our mission include making sure that all Peas Please commitments are SMART, setting new and ambitious targets for improvement, and committing to transparent reporting on the proportion of total sales or procurement spend that comes from veg.

About the author

Rebecca Tobi

Rebecca joined The Food Foundation in January 2020, leading on the Peas Please initiative. Rebecca is a registered associate nutritionist with a background in science communication and public affairs and joins The Food Foundation from the Nutrition Society.

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