A progress report released today by the Peas Please project claims the initiative has helped serve an extra 162 million portion of veg over the last three years.

Peas Please is a multi-stakeholder project that works with businesses, civil society and policymakers across the UK to make it easier for people to access vegetables, by getting organisations to pledge to grow, serve or sell more vegetables.

Its latest report highlights how Covid-19 has caused widespread disruption to food businesses increasing their veg consumption targets.

Despite this, it claims the Peas Please initiative still directly contributed to 72.1 million additional portions of veg being sold or served this year.

“Although the pandemic continues to impact many sectors, there is a real opportunity to rebuild the food economy so that it is more veg focused,” a spokesperson said.

Even with Covid-19 causing disruption across the food sector, the Peas Please initiative continued to deliver on its mission, with 72.1 million additional portions of veg being sold or served this year.

“This demonstrates remarkable progress in the right direction, despite the rate of increase slowing slightly as a result of the pandemic (approximately 13 million fewer additional portions were reported compared to last year).”

Potential in retail sector

However, the report paints a picture of a food system hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, with 27% of organisations participating in the scheme unable to report back this year – the majority affected in the out-of-home eating sector.

Retail grocery sales data provided by Kantar show that the proportion of veg in a consumer’s shopping basket remains low at 7%, despite a 13.7% increase in overall grocery sales in the 12 weeks leading up to mid-June.

“Were retailers to be in line with the government’s Eatwell Guide, 20% of the shopping basket should be made up of veg,” the spokesperson added.

The absence of an uplift in the percentage share of retail shopping baskets that are veg this year, despite the closure of the out-of-home sector, is a concerning indictment of the current situation in the UK.

“We are simply not selling, serving, or eating enough vegetables.”