Veg Cities are cooking

Veg Cities launched in June following pilots in Cardiff, Birmingham and Brighton & Hove. The Sustainable Food Cities campaign is led by food and farming charity Sustain in partnership with the wider Peas Please initiative of the Food Foundation, Nourish Scotland, Food Cardiff and WWF.

The aim of Veg Cities is to increase the availability and consumption of vegetables. Food partnerships and/or local authorities are working with seven different sectors, from retail and local markets to schools and local authorities. The aim is to encourage cities to take action such as:

  • Promote veg through marketing work, public facing campaigns, challenges and competitions

  • Improve access to veg through an increase in the lines available in retail, after school hours and to those particularly in need

  • Promote growing, cooking and eating through support to community food growing and investment in training and skills

  • Support local businesses through planning, business rate relief or other tools

  • Transform catering and procurement by getting at least two portions of veg in every meal in local restaurants and caterers

  • Reduce waste through monitoring, redistribution of surplus and roadshows, workshops and citywide campaigns and initiatives.

Currently, there are 15 Veg Cities. Project Co-ordinator and Eating Better Trustee, Sofia Parente, says: “Over 80% of us are not eating the recommended 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 £1.7bn. 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 among 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.”

Glasgow and Nottingham launched campaigns in August and others are preparing to join in. 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 plant-based meals, especially targeting people on low income.

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.

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.

To get involved, visit Veg Cities.

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