Brits are eating fewer vegetables due to the cost-of-living crisis in a concerning trend that is replicating the 2008 financial crisis.
Vegetable sales are down by nine per cent compared to last year according to supermarket data, matching a new survey by YouGov, in which 26 per cent of participants said they had bought fewer fresh vegetables due to financial pressures.
“Vegetables are increasingly being seen as an unaffordable luxury and we are seeing signs of a worrying decline in sales,” said executive director of the food poverty campaign group The Food Foundation, Anna Taylor.
This follows the same pattern as the financial crash of 2008 where fresh vegetable consumption fell by 7.8 per cent according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies. Campaigners are worried that, like in the previous crisis, the effects on public health and eating patterns will be felt for years to come.
“Our worry is that these new shopping patterns will become a habit that stays after the cost-of-living crisis has eased and will ultimately have a negative impact on the health of our nation,” said chief executive of Veg Power, an alliance in the food sector to encourage children’s fruit and vegetable consumption, Dan Parker.
“Food prices are going up,” said project manager at The Food Foundation, Rebecca Tobi. “This is the 13th consecutive month [food prices have] gone up. It’s the only part of the budget that you can squeeze. People are making difficult decisions.”
“When people need to make sacrifices, people are inclined to sacrifice veg,” Parker added.
In response, a new campaign is aiming to unite experts from supermarkets to chefs to help people and families eat more veg on a budget.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Bee Wilson and Tom Hunt are among the chefs, nutritionists and child psychologists who will be answering questions directly from parents and carers via the Simply Veg campaign website, with a £50 prize for each question that is chosen.
“The challenge isn’t just that households can’t feed themselves well, but the problem is the message that eating healthily is expensive. We have to reframe that debate,” said ex-director of Sainsbury’s, Judith Batchelar, speaking at a launch event for the campaign at Jamie Oliver HQ.
“We can see the double challenge. It’s not only feeding veg to kids but feeding veg to kids on a budget,” said Fearnley-Whittingstall. “We need an extra rung of support for carers and families that are preparing veg.
“It’s worth reiterating the size of the prize – the extraordinary transformative impact that the success of this project would have,” added Fearnley-Whittingstall on what higher fruit and veg consumption could do for the nation’s health, education and environment.
One of the issues, along with the perceived expense of buying veg, appears to be the energy costs needed in preparing it said director of food aid charity, Food in Community, Chantelle Norton in May: “[Food bank] users are increasingly requesting foods which require minimal cooking due to high fuel costs.”
Chief executive of Veg Power, Dan Parker, said: “With Simply Veg we’re trying to make it as easy as possible for parents and carers to navigate their way through the cost-of-living crisis by embracing veg and pulses.
“The message that comes back to us from parents is simplicity is everything.
“We have recruited an amazing team of experts who have an incredible wealth of knowledge; chefs, nutritionists, gardeners, child psychologists. We’re going to challenge parents to ask questions and our experts to give simple answers,” he said.
More on the cost-of-living crisis