A new report from Peas Please, produced by the Food Foundation in partnership with Nourish Scotland, Food Sense Wales and Food NI examines trends in UK-grown versus overseas vegetable consumption.
The report said that UK home-grown vegetable production fell by 12% between 2017 and 2018, bringing domestic production levels to a 20 year low.
Figures from Veg Facts in Brief 2020 show that just 52.7% of the veg we consume at home is grown in the UK, while new research from the SHEFS consortium finds that the UK supply of fruit and vegetables has become increasingly reliant on imports, particularly from countries that are vulnerable to climate change and water scarcity.
Under lockdown in the UK, 25% of households with children are ‘worried’ about getting enough fruit and veg for their children, and 6% are ‘very worried. Increasingly strained supply chains might compromise access to affordable fruit and vegetables at home.
Veg Facts 2020 also demonstrates that pre-Covid-19, UK citizens were not eating enough fruit and vegetables to protect their health, with 11% of adults and 33% of 5-10-year-olds in the UK eating less than one portion of vegetables a day.
With the Agriculture Bill scheduled to undergo its second reading in the House of Lords on 10 June, the Food Foundation is calling for the Bill to support human and planetary health by prioritising horticulture. Diets that are low in vegetables are associated with almost 21,000 premature deaths in the UK every year, but each additional portion of veg consumed can reduce risk of mortality by 5%. Furthermore, with policymakers, farmers, and food businesses currently facing the challenging conundrum of how best to rebuild and adapt, the risks climate change and Brexit pose to UK vegetable supplies in the longer-term have not gone away.
The Bill must include public health as a ‘public good’, and support horticulture as a route to delivering public health
The Bill must include a government commitment to measuring and reporting on household food insecurity in the UK.
Food Foundation executive director Anna Taylor said: “Now more than ever we must have an Agriculture Bill which supports public health as well as environmental benefit. We need a national plan to get us all eating enough fruit and veg to protect our health and British horticulture could play an important part.”
Baroness Rosie Boycott said: “Our food system needs to be more resilient to both economic shocks and environmental and climate risks. It must be less dependent on last minute deliveries of vital perishable foods from overseas, and with a diversification of food retail options to form more resilient, vibrant local food economies.
"Our nation’s health also needs to be prioritised. Government should give businesses that are promoting healthy eating a head start, re-build our nation’s horticulture sector and put in place much more robust economic safety net so that everyone can afford a diet which protects their health.”