On June 5th, Peas Please hosted its second Pledger Event in Manchester. The conference brought together the full range of Peas Please pledgers to hear from each other about how they are progressing with their pledges, and how their innovative approaches are working to drive up vegetable intake across the UK.

The Peas Please initiative continues to grow fast, with 13 new pledges in action since the 2018 Vegetable Summit last October, and with the national Veg Power and ITV campaign inspiring children all over Britain to #EatThemToDefeatThem!

We kicked off the day with a series of presentations and discussions.

Giles Quick and Alex McDonald from Kantar WorldPanel addressed commercial opportunities in healthy eating. They looked the considerations around Brexit, examined health as a driver of consumer choice (including flexitarianism) and talked about emerging vegetable consumption trends. Looking to the future, it was encouraging to see that ‘Veg Challenges’ were not outnumbered by ‘Veg Reasons to be Cheerful.’

Will Nicholson (Food Foundation) and Jacqui Machin (PwC) spoke about vegetable consumption’s role in meeting SDG commitments. Linking Peas Please to wider sustainability strategies and targets proved a good idea: vegetables could play a central role in helping to hit sustainability targets by encouraging sustainable production, educating children and adults, and minimising food waste. The presentation highlighted the importance of companies reporting against their SDGs, rather than just mentioning them.

Harriet Becher from the Department of Health and Social Care identified obesity as one of the great health challenges of the 21st Century, and highlighted the part Peas Please has to play in our approach to tackling it. The initiative’s work on increasing vegetable consumption will help reduce childhood obesity by improving diet quality, supporting product reformulation, and encouraging the marketing of healthier products.



People’s Panels

In 2019, Peas Please began its People’s Panels work, bringing together citizens in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to review Peas Please pledges and ensure they are being delivered. During seven workshops attended by 63 people and four site visits to review the pledges in action, the People’s Panels identified a diverse set of voices and experiences in vegetable consumption, and found that intake was influenced by culture and habit. The panels investigated the notion of cultivatable palates, discussed ideas for incentivising veg buying and gave their verdict on the quality and efficacy of Peas Please pledges. Although some pledges were very popular, it was clear that more work is needed to fulfil all the pledges. Next, Peas Please will further develop the ‘People’s Veg Voice’ to achieve meaningful change and create more opportunities for citizens groups to engage directly with Peas Please pledgers.

The pledgers agreed that it was helpful to receive feedback from citizens – “the more feedback the better” – and suggested that if the People’s Panels work continued it should form the basis for a bank of valuable data. Recommendations from pledgers for further People’s Panels studies included:

  • Short videos of site visits which could then be shared with the pledger for discussion and review internally
  • Investigation regarding what happens to veg once it is purchased and goes into the home so that pledgers can think about further reaching ways to support consumption
  • Creating pledger-specific panels to facilitate bespoke engagement between citizens and pledgers.





Afternoon workshops

Healthy Start and Best Start: how can we ensure they deliver bigger, better impact?

The Food Foundation’s Dr Courtney Scott ran the event’s Healthy Start workshop, which brought together retailers, cities and businesses to hear updates on the Healthy Start programme from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), and on the Best Start programme in Scotland from Pete Ritchie at Nourish Scotland. We also discussed how Peas Please can ensure the schemes deliver greater impact. As Best Start begins and Healthy Start is digitised, the workshop participants discussed how the schemes will ensure that the benefits are used on the intended products, and how a card-based system removes some barriers such as retailer registration and lessens stigma for the beneficiaries. In follow-up, the Food Foundation and many of the retailers will be meeting with DHSC on Healthy Start on July 2nd and there is interest in continuing this engagement to explore further opportunities for supporting mothers on low incomes to eat more fruit and veg.



Contract catering: How can we measure whether we’re reaching those who eat the least veg?  

Will Nicholson at the Food Foundation led a discussion on how pledgers might be able to help Peas Please understand if people who eat the least veg are being reached through the contract caterer pledges. While it was agreed that in general all groups need to eat more veg, special attention must be paid to the impact had on children from deprived areas. The session looked at the potential for caterers to measure overall servings of veg, and identified the fact that this measure was likely to generate specific data on servings of veg in schools. It was agreed that it would be productive for pledgers who are engaging with schools to educate and inform school staff and children about their work on veg.

Veg Cities: stimulating demand and supply at a local level  

The Veg Cities workshop led by Sofia Parente, Veg Cities Coordinator, discussed stimulating demand and supply at a local level. Updates were given from Lambeth, Food Cardiff, Glasgow Community Food Network and Hull Food Partnerships, who highlighted the opportunities they have had to collaborate with local stakeholders. The Healthy School Network, for example, created momentum by bridging the local and national agenda, and reaching out to children in the community (particularly in KS2). Most of the local groups present, as well as groups in many other areas, took part in this year’s Big Dig day, held on April 27th. This saw over 100 gardens nationally, across more than fifteen different cities, register their gardens on the renewed Big Dig website. This, along with local publicity, brought in 2,000 visitors, including many new recruits to volunteer and help run the gardens over the season. Key challenges mentioned for Veg Cities were resources, coordination, expertise and tight timescales. The next steps are to collaborate more widely with public health and other stakeholders around healthy eating, support workplaces, connect with regional policies such as Good Food Nation on Scotland, organise regular campaign pushes and extend the campaigns to all school pupils. The next major focus is an event to bring the campaigns together around reducing veg waste, including a pumpkin rescue planned for Halloween, and working with waste organisations such as Hubbub.

Eating out of the home: How can contract caterers and restaurants support Veg Power? 

Jade Nicholson from Elior led a catering workshop which detailed Elior’s role in supporting and rolling out the Veg Power campaign in the primary schools which they cater. It was clear that their success was down to the passion of the managers, whose commitment meant that much was achieved in a very short time frame. There was great enthusiasm for repeating the Veg Power campaign in January 2020 but a much longer lead time would be required if more schools were to come on board.



Retailers: How can we move to pledges about portions? 

The Food Foundation’s Director Anna Taylor ran an interesting discussion with Peas Please retailers about measuring their impact. Lidl presented their work in Brighton and Birmingham (both in partnership with the City Councils) where they have been researching with the local communities what they could do to help people eat more veg. They will be trialling a number of initiatives in store. Peas Please is keen to move retailers towards thinking about setting targets on the percent of their shopping basket which is veg. Some retailers are already tracking this metric internally. Inclusion of composite dishes is more challenging and some suggestions were made for dealing with this. Peas Please aims to bring the retailers back together to discuss this further.


Peas Please would like to thank all our partners, pledgers and People’s Panels participants for making the event such dynamic, productive and exciting day. The 100 pledges for January 2020 target is fast approaching: if you’d like to make a Veg Pledge of your own get in touch on our website or email