14 caterers make more veg pledge

Caterlink, Olive Catering, Vertas and Compass Group UK & Ireland, along with the University of West London, have signed up to the Peas Please initiative, which works to increase vegetable consumption in the UK. This brings the number of catering firms involved in the scheme to 14.

The announcement follows news last week that Brits are eating no more fruit and vegetables than they did almost a decade ago, despite government campaigns to encourage people to eat more healthily. The latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) data shows little change in intake of fruit and vegetables over a nine year period to 2017 with all age and sex groups consuming below the 5-a-day recommendation.

Peas Please aims to bring together businesses and brands from across the food system to secure commitments to improve the availability, affordability and quality of the veg offer in shops, schools, fast food restaurants and canteens. The initiative delivered 4.8 million additional portions of veg in its first year.

“We’ve made great progress in the last eight months but the pressure is now on to change pledges into portions to ensure genuine impact on the nation’s health,” said Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation.

This week, Compass Group UK & Ireland has pledged to increase its procurement volumes of vegetables across all sectors of its business by 15% by 2020. It will also be reformulating recipes to include more vegetable content “wherever possible”, and will be launching a “plant forward” promotion encouraging and supporting all customers to eat more vegetables.

Olive Catering has committed to increase vegetable servings by 10%, as well as promoting seasonal vegetables with recipe ideas and implementing veg smoothie bars in contracts. Meanwhile, Vertas has pledged to develop its menus to ensure that a minimum six varieties of vegetables and salads are available each week in customers’ meals. Extra vegetables will be added to some dishes.

The University of West London will be educating the chefs of tomorrow by providing courses on healthy and sustainable food, with a particular focus on why vegetables are an important part of the solution. They will also increase servings of vegetables by 10% across three of restaurants and canteens.

Caterlink has pledged to achieve a 10% average increase in portions of veg served in its recipes compared to the period July 2017-July 2019. The school catering specialist will also redesign key recipes to include more veg across its menu plans, and will promote vegetables through the “added benefits” sessions in schools, as well as collaborating with campaigns such as Veg Power.

The commitments coincide with a new advertising campaign to encourage kids to eat more vegetables. Launched by Veg Power and ITV, “Eat Them To Defeat Them” includes a 60-second film in which children are cast as the heroes in movie scenario with vegetables emerging “from underground to take over the world”. The ad, which featured during Coronation Street last week, is funded by the biggest ever coalition of supermarkets: Aldi, Asda, Coop, Iceland, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose, along with food brand Birds Eye.

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