WHAT IS A VEG CITY?
A briefing for local authorities & city food partnerships
Veg towns and cities are those where the city or local authority, in partnership with the private sector and community organisations use their powers to drive up vegetable consumption. These towns and cities develop a short outline of the measures which they intend to take over the period 2017-2020 and report on their progress on an annual basis starting in October 2018.
Cities are being invited to consider becoming Veg Cities as part of the Peas Please initiative. Peas Please brings together retailers, farmers, fast food and restaurant chains, caterers, processors and government departments with a common goal of making it easier for everyone to eat veg. These stakeholders are asked to make commitments in line with the Peas Please commitments framework at summits in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff on October 24th.
16 example actions for Veg Cities
There are a range of actions which towns and cities can take to drive up vegetable consumption. These actions are grouped under each of the 6 themes used for the award criteria for Sustainable Food Cities.
Promoting healthy and sustainable food to the public.
1. City partnerships can promote the city as a Veg City to the public through branded marketing work, social media, healthy eating campaigns, community focused events, press engagement and / or through offering free advertising space (e.g. on public transport or billboards) for veg adverts aimed at children. This could help to drive consumer awareness of and support for the actions being taken, and help to secure wider buy-in from businesses operating in the city.
Tackling food poverty, diet-related ill-health and access to affordable healthy food.
2. Authorities and local Health boards can include within their maternity and early year service contracts and provision specific KPIs or actions to support the uptake of Healthy Start Vouchers.
3. City partnerships can engage convenience store owners in deprived areas to improve their fruit and vegetable offer through collaboration and linking to retailer actions in the Peas Please commitments framework.
4. City partnerships can support schools and community groups to provide access to fruit and veg through food coops, community food growing groups or holiday schemes for children of low income families which provide food related activities, healthy snacks and meals which support fruit and veg consumption.
5. Supermarkets can ensure that all food bank contributions given by community members are supplemented by supermarket donated fruit and veg to ensure anyone accessing a food bank can get free fruit and veg.
Building community food knowledge, skills, resources and projects.
6. Authorities and Local health boards can support nursery and school based programmes which engage in educating children in food growing, tasting and eating veg.
7. Community groups focused on developing skills can put in place cooking classes for veg-centred meals
8. Authorities can use planning instruments to support growing spaces and community food enterprises e.g. through supplementary planning guidance.
Promoting a vibrant and diverse sustainable food economy.
9. Authorities can use planning instruments or business rate relief to support high streets which have markets, retailers and food service outlets which have a great veg offer.
10. Authorities can protect/re-establish vital infrastructure such as wholesale markets, Grade 1 and 2 land, local processing, food hubs and/ or distribution networks underpinning the veg supply chain.
Transforming catering and food procurement.
11. Businesses can include 2 portions of veg in every main meal and authorities can support Healthy Option award schemes.
12. Authorities can incorporate, into contracts which include food provision, a requirement that two portions of veg are included in every main meal.
13. City partnerships can support local businesses to deliver training on cooking with veg for caterers providing food in nurseries, schools and workplaces.
Reducing waste and the ecological footprint of the food system.
14. City partnerships can support waste reduction initiatives which focus on veg through food waste roadshows and workshops for communities and business and citywide campaigns to raise public awareness of veg waste such as love food hate waste and disco soup
15. Schools can monitor the amount of veg wasted and develop initiatives to educate children about the benefits of eating seasonal, locally grown veg and the impact of food waste
16. Citywide partnerships can support community growing initiatives and allotments to ensure surplus produce is redistributed within the city
Metrics for Veg Cities
All veg cities will be asked to report against one or more of these metrics
1. Uptake of Healthy Start Vouchers (source: Department of Health)
2. Number of convenience stores being engaged to make a healthier offer, and of these the number that sell more than 10 types of veg (fresh, frozen or chilled prepared)
3. Proportion of primary school children eligible for free school meals which reached per year through holiday schemes which actively support veg consumption
4. Percent of nurseries, primary schools, secondary schools which have initiated growing, tasting and eating veg programmes (including through schemes such as Food for Life)
5. Percent of restaurants / casual dining chains which meet the city’s standards for healthy food
6. Percent of local authority service contracts with food provision which include the requirement for two
portions of veg in every main meal.
Veg cities can, of course, also develop other metrics in addition to these if they wish.
Find out more about the actions
All the actions on the list are intended to incur small marginal costs through including a veg focus in existing activities, or be cost neutral, in recognition of the considerable financial pressure on local authorities.
Whether a city decides to promote its decision to become a Veg City will depend on the local context, and it may be something which is not done from the start, but which is taken on after some of the other Actions are underway.
Peas Please will be launching a competition for advertisers to develop a veg advert for kids. Children and expert advertisers on the judging panel which will announce the winner on October 24th at the Veg Summits in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh. Cities will have the opportunity to show the winning advert on publicly owned advertising space.
Healthy Start is a government voucher scheme to help low-income and young families purchase more fruits and vegetables (fresh or frozen), in addition to cow’s milk and infant formula. Eligible pregnant women and children between the ages of one and four can receive a voucher worth £3.10 each week. Children under the age of one are eligible for two vouchers per week. However, less than 75% of people eligible to benefit from the scheme are actually taking it up. Recent national data (Nov 2016) shows that only 69.8% of those known to be eligible for the programme became entitled beneficiaries. This was lower than the previous year at 72.7%.
A number of barriers to uptake have been identified by evaluations of the programme, including complex eligibility criteria, low levels of awareness, and complicated application and distribution processes.
“For a two parent household with a baby and toddler, Healthy Start food vouchers could increase the weekly food spend by 14%. For a single mother with a baby and toddler, Healthy Start boosts purchasing power by almost 25%.”
Case study: Royal Borough of Greenwich
Nearly a third of children in Greenwich live in poverty. The Royal Borough of Greenwich has prioritised improving uptake of the Healthy Start and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption by low-income families. Greenwich established a steering group to coordinate activities and improve communication between partner agencies. To encourage registration, the midwife talks about the programme and signs all registration forms. Greenwich provides free vitamins to all pregnant women to improve uptake.
To increase fruit and veg consumption, Greenwich public health and its partners run several cookery courses that promote healthy eating. Greenwich piloted incentives for healthy eating through the Rose Vouchers for Fruit and Veg Project. Families eligible for Healthy Start received an additional £3.00 in Rose Vouchers per week per child to spend at food co-ops run by Greenwich Cooperative Development Agency (GCDA).
The borough has mapped the distribution of Healthy Start retailers and encouraged more than 100 local shops to become authorised. Several other retailer partnerships are in the works, including recruiting street traders and box schemes to accept Healthy Start Vouchers. Greenwich public health is working with GCDA to support a fruit and vegetable stall at Mulgrave Children’s Centre, where family workers promote Healthy Start to harderto-reach families. Public Health Greenwich supports the project by promoting the initiative to local health and non-health services.
(Source: Sustain, Beyond the Food Bank 2015)
Case study: Scottish Government
The Scottish government launched ‘Improving Maternal and Infant Nutrition: A Framework for Action’ in 2011, aimed at NHS Boards, local authorities and others to improve the nutrition of pregnant women, babies and young children in Scotland. In 2012 Community Food & Health (Scotland) conducted a successful pilot programme to promote maternal and infant nutrition and ‘Healthy Start’ in Falkirk, partnering with local community organisations already working with parents and families.
Peas Please is developing an online toolkit for supermarket and convenience retailers to provide evidence based advice on action which can drive up sales of veg. Authorities could support local retailers to adopt these actions.
Case study: Simply Fresh
A case study of a convenience store franchise which has prioritised fruit and veg can be found here.
Case study: Scottish Grocers Federation – Healthy Living Programme
The SGF are engaging with their members through their Healthy Living Programme to increase the range, quality and affordability of fresh produce and other healthier products from across categories in convenience retail stores across Scotland, with a particular focus in areas of deprivation. They’ve so far provided advice to over 1800 convenience retailers. More details can be found here.
For 170 days a year children who are entitled to free school meals cannot access their free school meal provision. A large number of community based organisations are responding to this challenge through offering holiday provision for children often including a food offer. Local authorities have a role to play in ensuring that these programmes reach those who need them most, and that the provision meets minimum standards. Holiday provision provides huge opportunities for connecting children with how food is grown, trying new fruit and vegetables, developing cooking skills and supporting healthy eating practices.
Pilots across Wales have demonstrated that children attending “Food and Fun” clubs in a school setting reported consuming more fruit and vegetables (67%) on club days than on non-club days. Welsh Government has committed £500K to extend these pilots in 2017 (BBC Wales, 2017). For more info see here.
Stirling Council is working on a new initiative to ensure children are getting enough nutritious food during the school holidays, providing a place for children and families to come together, play games and share meals. The Council, in partnership with Start Up Stirling and Forth Environment Link, is developing a new programme of leisure and activity-based support for families with food at its core.
Local authorities can support schemes which add value to school food standards and which specifically support children’s consumption of fruit and vegetables. There are a number of schemes which local authorities could support:
• In the Government’s childhood obesity plan it states that from September 2017, the Government will introduce “a new voluntary healthy rating scheme for primary schools (in England) to recognise and encourage their contribution to preventing obesity by helping children to eat better and move more”….Once the new rating scheme is operational it will be referred to in the school inspection handbook, and Ofsted inspectors will be able to take account of the scheme as an important source of evidence about the steps taken by the school to promote healthy eating and physical activity”.
• In Wales all local authority maintained schools are registered in the Welsh Network of Health Schools
which is part of The European Network of Health Promoting Schools and aims to improve the health and wellbeing of pupils and the whole school community and includes a nutrition element. Public Pealth Wales expanded the funding for this scheme by creating an early years version of Healthy Schools. This is called the Healthy and Sustainable Preschool Scheme, and it is coordinated by members of the Healthy Schools team. A section reflects a whole setting approach to food, nutrition and oral health, incorporating the promotion of a healthy balanced diet based on current national guidance and good practice in relation to oral health (Llywodraeth Cymru Welsh Government, 2011). Launched in 2015 the Healthy and Sustainable Higher Education/ Further Education Framework (Wales, 2016) was developed as an extension of the Welsh Network of Healthy School Schemes (WNHSS) into Higher Education and Further Education settings, supporting the UK Healthy University Network (Wales, 2016).
• Soil Association Food for Life has a schools based (Food for Life Soil Assoiation, n.d.) and early years award (Food for Life Soil Association, n.d.). The latest report from Food for Life shows that pupils in FFL schools reported consuming almost one third more portions of fruit and vegetables in comparison schools. (Food for Life Soil Association, 2016).
Cardiff and Vale UHB has developed the “Gold Healthy Snack Award” which directly links with Wales’ Healthy and Sustainable preschool scheme. It is open to day nurseries, Flying Start groups, playgroups, child-minders and after school clubs. They can achieve the award if healthy snacks and drinks are provided and guidelines on hygiene and the eating environment are met (Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, 2015).
Many community groups are supporting the development of cooking skills but cooking vegetables so that they make delicious meals can even be a challenge for experienced cooks. The development of veg cooking skills could therefore be specifically promoted.
Local authorities can also indirectly support this effort. In England and Wales, local authorities have neither the
powers nor the duty to require landlords to provide cooking facilities for properties not in multiple occupancy,
though they can include this requirement within licensing criteria for private landlords (All Party Parliamentary
Inquiry into Hunger in the United Kingdom, 2015).
Case study: “Pimp your veg” by Harborne Food School
Harborne food school in Birmingham runs community cooking classes which focus on veg as a main meal and not a side show, celebrating ingredients used by diverse communities in Birmingham. It also tackles the perception that healthy tasty food belongs to the rich. The sessions are delivered by nutritionist and chef tutor. The Food school also runs an apprentice programme where students are taught how to shop and use seasonal ingredients.
Case study: Woodlands Community Café, Glasgow
Woodlands Community Café in Glasgow serves a three course vegetarian meal every Monday evening. They provide cookery workshops before the meal to show people how easy it is to cook healthy from scratch, using fresh food donations from local shops and produce from the community garden connected to the café. People from all backgrounds come and share the meal on a pay-as-you-feel basis.
There are 3 ways through which cities can support growing spaces.
• Local authorities can map redundant retail and brownfield sites and make them available to new food enterprises, for example through use of meanwhile and special leases to facilitate the use of derelict land or buildings to provide community benefits.
• In England Local Authorities can also opt into the Sustainable Communities Act to enable communities to submit proposals via their intermediary to central government to protect, take control and manage community assets for growing and other food related initiatives that would improve the local health, wellbeing and environment (Sandford, 2016). Under the Community Empowerment Act in Scotland, local authorities are required to draw up a food-growing strategy for their area, including identifying land that may be used as allotment sites and identifying other areas of land that could be used by a community for growing food.
• Local Authorities can also encourage developers to incorporate food growing into planning policies. Planning Advice Notes which offer technical advice on good practice in a local area are one tool which can be used.
Manchester City Council has identified approximately 349ha of vacant and derelict land in the city in its Core
Strategy and has piloted ‘meanwhile projects’ with partners to deliver growing projects on these sites (Manchester City Council, Page 12 of 23 2012 p.7). The Council plans further ‘meanwhile projects’ in the City building on the lessons of the pilot sites.
Glasgow City Council operates a ‘stalled spaces‘ scheme.The programme was started in 2011 and in its first five years has helped deliver over 100 projects that have successfully brought over 25ha of vacant, under utilised or stalled sites under temporary community use, many of which as food growing spaces.
Brighton and Hove City Council used the Sustainable Communities Act to implement a change to rules governing the sale of produce from allotments (Brighton and Hove City Council, 2010). The Council also adopted a food growing and development planning advice note in 2011 (Brighton & Hove City Council’s Local Development Framework, 2011). The PAN, the first of its kind nationally, made provisions for the incorporation of community food growing into new commercial and residential developments. The percentage of all residential developments proposing food growing has increased from 1% to over 40% since its adoption. In addition Brighton and Hove City Council have also called on Section 62 (3) (A sustainability checklist for planning applications) to make it compulsory for developers of residential buildings (new and conversions) to complete a sustainability checklist for planning which includes a section on food growing (Brighton and Hove City Council, 2015).
Croydon Council applies a presumption in favour of development provided applications assist in the delivery of
a Green Grid which includes (London Borough of Croydon, 2013):
– Protecting and enhancing allotments, community gardens and woodland; and
– Supporting food growing, tree planting and forestry, including the temporary utilisation of cleared sites; and
encouraging major residential developments to incorporate edible planting and growing spaces at multiple floor levels; and
– Ensuring landscaping is flexible so that spaces may be adapted for growing opportunities.
The policy derives from the London Plan which includes several strategic policies promoting productive landscapes and encourages boroughs to identify other potential spaces that could be used for commercial food production or for community gardening, including allotments and orchards (London Borough of Croydon, 2013b).
Actions 9 & 10:
There are a range of instruments which local authorities can use to support the promotion of veg in shops, cafes and restaurants and re-establish vital infrastructure such as wholesale markets, Grade 1 and 2 land, local processing, food hubs and/ or distribution networks.
• Discretionary business rate relief: Before the end of this parliament, councils will keep 100% of local taxes including all £26 billion that is generated from business rates. In addition councils will be given powers so that they can cut business rates across the board to go alongside their existing discount powers allowing them to incentivise, for example, those selling fruit and veg (The Great British High Street, 2015). Section 47 of the Local Government Finance Act 1998 has been amended by the Localism Act 2011 to give councils the power to give a locally determined discretionary discount on business rates. This is different from other business rate relief as it can be allocated to any business against the local authority’s own criteria. The allocation of this relief is 50% funded from local authority budgets and 50% funded by Government. A fund of £300m was allocated for this in the 2017 Budget.
• Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2016) can be used to restrict the development of fast foods on school fringes. SPDs are not systematically produced but “build upon and provide more detailed advice or guidance on the policies in the Local Plan”. It is important to note that SPD’s are often supplanted by other priorities and not put in practice. The online National Planning Practise Guidance (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2014b) refers to health impact assessment (HIA) as a useful tool to assess and address the impacts of development proposals.
• Section 106 Agreements (Local Government Association Digital Communications, 2015) (Section 75 or Section 69 agreements in Scotland) or ‘planning obligations’ are legal agreements between the developer and the local authority for money or in-kind support for additional services or developments that relate to the proposed development. These can be used to require financial contributions from hot food takeaways to support the Council’s initiatives to tackle obesity. These can also be used to create more food growing spaces or to encourage retail diversity by supporting independent retailers.
• Specifying food shops as ‘essential retail’ can enable local planners to restrict applications for a change of use from this specific shop type to one less essential (within A1 retail and service outlet category) which would normally not require planning permission. It could for example prevent a greengrocer being replaced by a hairdresser.
• Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a planning charge introduced to support Local Authorities to contribute towards the infrastructure which is needed in an area as a result of development taking place, for instance, to support the Local Authority’s objectives in reducing obesity rates. A CIL schedule is agreed and published by the Local Authority stating the conditions under which developers must pay the levy.(Department for Communities and Local Government, 2014a).
Lambeth Council offers business rate relief (Lambeth Council, 2014)to support high streets and supports startups in Brixton Village by offering zero rent to take over empty shops.
Oldham Council provides business rate relief for small businesses and food retailers (including shops, pubs,
cafes and restaurants) (Oldham Council, no date).
London Borough of Waltham Forest (Local Government Association Digital Communications, 2016) has
adopted Supplementary Planning Guidance to deny planning permission to new fast food outlets within 400
metres of schools.
London Borough of Islington adopted a Location and Concentration of Uses Supplementary Planning
Document (London Borough of Islington, 2016, p. 36) that conditions planning applications for new hot food
takeaways to “achieve and operate in compliance with the Healthy Catering Commitment Standard (Chartered
Institute of Environmental Health, 2012).
Guilford Council requires in its Street Trading Requirements and Application (Guildford Borough Council, 2016) that “at least one healthy meal choice should be provided” (Guildford Borough Council, 2016, p. 4). The
document gives examples of such menus however, these could be updated to reflect current nutritional guidelines.
The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham (London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, 2010) introduced a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) that calls on Section 106 to levy a £1,000 charge on hot-food takeaway businesses when they are granted planning permission and assigns the proceeds exclusively to the
Borough’s fight against obesity. This adds to the SPDs further restrictions imposed in terms of the appropriate
location (not in proximity of schools) and concentration of hot food takeaways.
Birmingham City Council has mobilised Section 106 funding from a new development in Longbridge in South
West Birmingham. Since 1906, the Longbridge plant produced a range of British cars. This activity ceased between 2006 – 2010. A period of regeneration recently started. The developer St Modwen contributed to ‘Section 106’ funding. Through the Obesogenic Group (a sub-section of the Obesity Strategy group), a significant proportion of these funds has been released for food and health initiatives. This is the first such project in the City.
The London Borough of Hackney’s Core Policy strategy 13; ‘Town Centres’ states: ‘Shops that provide essential day-to-day needs for the local community such as baker, butcher, greengrocer, grocer, specialist ethnic food shop, post office, dispensing chemists and primary care facilities, launderette, newsagent and post office in the borough’s town, district and local shopping centres as well as shopping parades and corner shops will be
protected from changes of use away from retail (London Borough of Hackney, 2010 p. 79).
Local authorities can promote the implementation of healthy food standards which include a strong veg offer in workplace settings. They can also offer award schemes which recognise healthy food being offered out of the home.
In England in 2014, Public Health England published catering guidance including a healthier and more sustainable catering toolkit for serving food to adults (PHE, 2014a). These documents offer practical advice on how to make catering affordable, healthier and more sustainable. They are being updated to include the latest dietary advice on fibre consumption and are therefore likely to include recommendations for increased veg. Wales has a Corporate Health standard of which healthy food is a component. It includes a requirement for “ A balanced menu with promotion of healthier options, which shows the types and proportions of food that employees need to eat to achieve a healthy diet” (Public Health Wales, 2015 p.26).
Tower Hamlets’ Food for Health awards “scheme recognises the cafes, takeaways, restaurants, staff canteens,
convenience stores and market traders that have made changes to the way that they prepare and cook their
food to make it healthier for their customers – therefore making healthy choices easier. The Food for Health
award is tiered, so depending on the changes made will depend on what award level is achieved. The tiers
include Award, Silver and Gold.” The award specifically builds on the food hygiene rating scheme.
Calderdale Council and CCG has funded the Out to Lunch campaign which develops a league table of local
casual dining restaurants based on the quality of food served to children and the service that goes with it.
The Scottish Government has launched the Healthcare Retail Standard in 2015 for all retail providers
operating in the NHS in Scotland, which includes provisions that at least 50% of food and 70% of drinks for
retail must meet specific health criteria and that unhealthy foods can’t be on promotion.
Local authorities contract out multiple services which include food provision. The UK public sector spends in the region of £2.5 billion a year on food and catering services (Morgan, 2015). Morgan (2015) argues that “this budget ought to be deployed more strategically to render good food more readily available in public sector settings”. In England efforts have been made to improve purchasing through Government Buying standards (GBS) (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, 2015) . While the GBS and accompanying balanced score card make some provision on veg they do not go far enough. As part of Peas Please we are asking public procurement bodies to sign our 2×2020 veg pledge which commits signatories to support the principle that all main courses should include 2 portions of vegetables as standard, within the price, in all public settings. Local
authorities can ask their contractors to support this pledge.
Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust and South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust agreed with
their CCG to use the CQUIN framework to improve hospital food (Soil Association, no date) for staff and visitors through the Food for Life Catering Mark, and improve mealtime experience for patients by developing their ward level foodservice practices.
There is a clear opportunity to improve the veg offered outside of the home – in restaurants and casual dining establishments, public and private sector canteens, schools and early years’ establishments, event catering and other food service enterprises – and therefore increase consumption. To do this, however, we need to ensure there is a rich skills base within the food sector to do interesting and tasty things with veg.
The employment and skills agenda continues to be determined, largely, at the national level. However, local authorities and other key stakeholders have a number of levers through which to encourage skills development for both adults and young people, which could be used to develop veg-specific competencies in the catering and hospitality industries.
English local authorities are now subject, under the Enterprise Act 2016, to apprenticeship start targets for public bodies; with 2.4% of the workforce of all but the smallest local authorities required to be apprentices by 2020. Where local authorities run in-house catering services, apprenticeship starts in the hospitality and catering trades could count towards this target, and in-turn could contain veg-specific training modules determined by the local authority employer and its contracted training providers.
Each of new ‘Metro Mayor’ combined authorities have been granted some skills responsibilities: with decision
making powers over, variably, the distribution of Adult Skills Budgets, the creation of Apprenticeship Grants for
Employers schemes, and the structure post-16 education systems. Some English local authorities have also worked in partnership with local businesses through Local Enterprise Partnerships to influence the distribution
of funds allocated by the national Skills Funding Agency.
Some skills policies are devolved from Westminster to the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies and Scottish
Government. Each of which allow for varying degrees of local authority engagement in the design and delivery of their respective skills strategies, programmes and plans.
Local authorities and multi-sectoral partnerships can also work with training providers and local employers to deliver tool box talks and other modular forms of employment training. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has an initiative now being adapted by the Humane Society International UK (HSIUK), which delivers “culinary workshops” to skill up and inspire chefs working in both public- and private-sector kitchens through showcasing a variety of vegan ingredients for plant-based dishes. The content of each workshop is adapted depending on expertise of participants and budgetary constraints.
Action 14 and 15
The quantity of veg grown and imported into the UK is close to that needed for the whole population to meet its 5 A Day target. However, currently around 30% of total supply is lost through household waste (avoidable and unavoidable), and supply-chain waste diminishes supply by a further 10% (Wrap 2016; DEFRA 2015b; Wrap 2012a). Campaigns which focus on reducing household waste could focus specifically on vegetables and promote strategies to cut back vegetable waste and in turn promote greater consumption.
Scottish Government has set a target to reduce food waste by 33% by 2025.
In Cardiff, campaigns are being run to reduce household veg waste and increase composting – in conjunction
with Love Food Hate Waste and Cardiff council. Examples include foodwaste roadshows, Love Food Hate waste
cook ups and education for children and parents during the school holiday enrichment programme, Food and
Fun – delivered through partnerships.
Cardiff Councils Get it Out for Cardiff (GIOFC) is the annual, end of term waste, recycling and charity collection
scheme for University accommodation and includes collection of tinned and packaged food.