Fruit and Vegetables

What is impacting the amount of Fruit and Veg eaten and grown in the UK?

Fruit and Veg consumption is the biggest marker of dietary inequality, with the rich eating more than the poor. With consumption persistently below recommended levels even before Covid-19 and Brexit, we look at these and other food system shocks to explore how they are impacting both consumption and production. We know that levels of production, especially of vegetables, have been declining in the UK and that the sector perhaps hasn’t had the support it requires to flourish. We’ll explore what needs to happen to support the sector to deliver environmental benefits and contribute to increasing consumption. On top of this we’ll share people’s experiences of accessing fruit and vegetables to better inform how to improve things for both people and planet.

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Massive decrease in fruit and vegetable intake reported by children receiving free school meals following lockdown

A massive decrease in fruit and vegetable intake has been reported by children receiving free school meals under lockdown. Preliminary findings of a detailed study of 60 nine-to-twelve-year-olds in London and the North East of England by Northumbria University’s Healthy Living Lab shows a significant decrease in the amount of fruit children have been eating. Before school closures they ate, on average, just over one portion of fruit per day. During the three-day reporting period during lockdown, almost half of the children (45%) said they hadn’t eaten any fruit, with the remaining children eating an average of half a portion of fruit per day.

Similar results were seen in the children’s responses on the amount of vegetables they had eaten. More than half of the children (55%) said they had not eaten any fresh vegetables during the three days during lockdown. The mean vegetable intake dropped from just over two portions per day when children were attending school, to an average of half a portion per day at home.

However, a four-fold increase was reported in the amount of sugar-sweetened drinks consumed, together with a substantial rise in the amount of crisps, chocolates and sweets being eaten. Children’s consumption of unhealthy snacks increased from an average of one over the three days when they were at school to six portions across three days at home during lockdown.

New paper by University of York researchers highlights vulnerabilities in the fruit and veg supply system

A new paper from researchers at the University of York highlights vulnerabilities in the fruit and veg supply system. The authors particularly highlight the Straits of Dover as a potential bottleneck to supply. 84% of the UK’s fresh fruit is imported and around half of all veg: the UK is highly dependent on Spain and the Netherlands for the majority of its fresh vegetable imports, and relies on the Straits of Dover for bringing much of this in. Of imported fruit and veg, 81% of apples and oranges, 77% of strawberries and raspberries, 83% of lettuces, 74% of cauliflower and 67% of tomatoes come through the Dover Straits. The authors argue this potentially leaves UK supply vulnerable to shortages if there were any disruption to ferry or freight routes.

Seasonal veg push launched

A nationwide appeal has been launched by Veg Power to get the UK eating more seasonal vegetables and supporting food producers.

The #SeasonalVeg campaign is supported, among others, by chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, SORTEDfood, children’s food author Amanda Grant, and Defra. It aims to swing people’s choice towards the veg coming into season, support frontline food workers bringing crops to consumers’ tables, and reduce the risk of food waste during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Veg Power stresses that buying seasonal vegetables means people across the UK can support local farmers and the national food supply chain, support a healthy diet and help boost immunity, and enjoy the great taste of seasonal vegetables, which are often cheaper.

Each week a different vegetable will be promoted, starting with asparagus on June 1st and followed by cucumber, mushrooms, leafy salads, courgette, spinach, tomatoes, radish, and finally beetroot on July 27th.

Increasing demand for Greek fruit and veg during coronavirus

Greek fruit and vegetable exporters are experiencing increased sales due to the impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak. This is thought to be partly based on Greece’s effective measures to contain the virus, but also on some lower harvests in Italy and Spain due to a combination of unfavourable weather conditions and labour shortages.

According to the CEO of market intelligence company Tridge, “the effects of Covid-19 have been felt around the world, and many buyers are seeking alternative suppliers to meet the consumer demand for safer and healthier products. Aside from the impacts of the pandemic, weather conditions can also significantly impact a harvest season, meaning that buyers need more options when sourcing suppliers.”

Spain’s fruit and veg exports up overall but shorter shelf life produce down

Despite the pandemic, Spanish global exports of fresh fruit and vegetables grew overall by 3.6% in volume and 12% in value in March compared to the same period last year. although cabbage exports grew in volume by 5.5% and 14% by value. Despite the fact that overall exports grew, there have been winners and losers, perhaps indicating a shift in demand away from more perishable fruit and veg. There was a rise in top fruit exports, with apples up 47% in volume but a fall in exported volume of strawberries (3.4%), tomatoes (15%), peppers (5%) and lettuce (9%). According to the most up to date Defra Stats the UK currently imports 31% of its veg and 21% of its fruit from Spain.




Pickling trend noted by Waitrose

Waitrose has noted an increase in veg sales they attribute to an increase in pickling at home during Covid-19 lockdown. Sales of white wine vinegar, the common vinegar to use for home pickling, have risen by 29% year on year at Waitrose. Online searches on for ‘pickling’ and ‘pickling vinegar’ have risen by 222% and 347% year on year respectively, while the term ‘pickling spices’ has risen by 500%.

Landworkers’ Alliance connects producers with consumers to improve access to food

The Landworkers’ Alliance is working with the Independent Food Aid Network to find ways to connect producers with consumers that improve access to good food for those experiencing household food insecurity or not able to access food for other reasons. Funding has been made available to develop pilot project-testing and to demonstrate how funding to small farms can improve access to good food for all.

They’re asking for expressions of interest from farms who would like to take part in a pilot project to model how agroecological farms can support access to food for people in low income communities, people experiencing food insecurity or people at high risk of Covid-19.

Government announces Pick for Britain campaign to recruit UK horticultural workers

The government has announced the Pick for Britain campaign, acknowledging that due to Covid-19 there are only a third of the workers required to pick the necessary crops in the UK. The NFU estimates that only 1% of horticultural workers are usually British residents, with the majority of the 75,000 workers needed usually come from Bulgaria and Romania and other European countries. With lockdown in place, there is an estimated 50,000-labourer deficit. It is hoped that furloughed staff and those who have recently become unemployed will take up the roles. The predicament begs the question as to whether having only 1% of your workforce resident in the country is a food secure approach, and whether this percentage should be built up to a higher level to complement the skilled labour coming in from other parts of Europe.