Mind your ‘Peas Please’ to promote a healthier diet!

Northern Ireland food companies, the Ulster Farmers’ Union and the Ulster University are the first to pledge their commitment to the UK-wide Peas Please initiative, which aims to make vegetables more appealing, accessible and affordable for everyone.

Saturday, 22nd May 2021, 6:00 am
Michele Shirlow, chief executive Food NI, promoting greater consumption of vegetables

They are among more than 100 major organisations in the UK which are pledging support for the important health-focused project.

UK research shows that 95 per cent of teenagers, for instance, currently don’t eat enough veggies.

In response, Ulster University Business School became the 100th pledger in the UK making it their commitment to promote to their students, through their teaching and research, the important role vegetables can play in improving diets, the environment and the economy.

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Drive to encourage people here to eat fresh vegetables and fruit

The other Northern Ireland pledgers are: Mash Direct in Comber, a UK leader in healthy vegetable sides and convenience meals; Henderson Group in Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland’s biggest food wholesaler; Ulster Farmers’ Union; and The Horticulture Forum.

Since Peas Please was launched three years ago it has delivered 162 million additional portions of vegetables tin he food system working across all UK regions.

Eighty percent of UK grocery retailers have now committed to major initiatives to help drive up vegetable consumption. Supporters also include Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Lidl and the Co-op.

Peas Please says; “The ambitious targets for vegetable sales and procurement are vital to increase consumption”. This is a main focus of the work of the Food Foundation and partners Food Sense Wales, Nourish Scotland and Food NI in the lead up to the United Nations Food Systems Summit in September and COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November.

The success shows a real commitment from retailers and food businesses to drive towards clear and transparent reporting on vegetable sales which is seen as a vital part of transforming the food system to be more sustainable and provide healthy food for everyone.

Michele Shirlow, Food NI chief executive, explains: “We are delighted to be supporting the immensely important Peas Please project because of its strategic focus on improving the health and wellbeing of people here and especially children and young people through the greater consumption of fresh vegetables and fruit.

“We hope that the leadership being provided by Northern Ireland pledgers such as Mash Direct, Henderson Group and Ulster University will inspire many more companies and organisations to back this vital project that is designed to improve health across Northern Ireland, and the rest of the UK.

“The project is hoping to support efforts to counter dietary problems and conditions such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiac conditions and to ensure everyone here, especially children and young people, now and in the future have easy access to a healthier, affordable and sustainable diet.”

Food NI is Northern Ireland’s membership-led food and drink promotion. Based in Belfast, the organisation has around 500 member companies from across Northern Ireland and encourages more people here to buy local food and also works alongside Invest NI in promoting sales in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

Continues Mrs Shirlow: “It is marvellous to see 100 major food businesses commit to increasing veggie consumption to support better health for millions of people. Transparent and regular reporting against targets is vital if we are to turn the tide on our current dietary crisis and see future generations face a better and healthier future with everyone having access to an affordable and sustainable diet.”

Henderson Group, which operates Spar, Eurospar and Vivo grocery stores across Northern Ireland, says it is “proud to source 75 percent of our produce from local suppliers, farmers and growers”. It pledges to increase vegetable sales to shoppers by five percent year-on-year through developing produce ranges such ‘The Greengrocer’s’ sourced from local suppliers.

This would also be achieved through “a wider range of convenience products like prepared sliced and diced vegetables, packaged leaves and salads along with a new range of stir fry or microwavable packs, promotional pricing, communications and point of sale information”.

In addition, fresh fruit and vegetables were being promoted every three weeks to shoppers via Henderson’s network of 470 Spar, Eurospar, and Vivo stores here.

Shoppers were also now able to access cooking recipes using fruit and vegetables. The focus, in addition, has involved developing easy serve/heat vegetable dishes from its own team of experienced chefs.

Mash Direct, the Hamilton family farm business, pledges to build on its extensive existing initiatives last year in sports and other areas by launching a ‘Grow Your Own’ campaign for shoppers and especially schools to encourage the growth of fresh vegetables and herbs.

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