School caterers make Peas Please pledges to get children eating more veg

School caterers make Peas Please pledges to get children eating more veg

Four major UK caterers have joined the Peas Please initiative to encourage more people to eat more vegetables by making them more accessible and appealing.

Compass Group UK & Ireland, Caterlink, Olive Catering and Vertas have all made pledges this month, supporting their thousands of customers in eating a healthier diet out of home.

Compass Group UK & Ireland has made a company-wide pledge to increase their procurement volumes of vegetables across all sectors of its business by 15% by 2020. They will also be reformulating recipes to include more vegetable content wherever possible, and will be launching a plant forward promotion encouraging and supporting all customers to eat more vegetables.

“Introducing more plant-based meals, not only supports our consumers’ desire for healthier choices, but also has a positive environmental impact too. We have worked hard with our executive chefs to re-engineer recipes to make them higher in vegetable content,” said Nicky Martin, head of nutrition at Compass Group UK & Ireland.

Specialist schools caterer Caterlink has pledged to achieve a 10% average increase in portions of veg served in their recipes compared to July 2017 – July 2019. They will also redesign key recipes to include more veg across their menu plans, and will promote vegetables through the ‘Added Benefits’ sessions in schools, as well as collaborating with campaigns such as Veg Power.

“At Caterlink the central focus of our menus is making sure that children have healthy, balanced and tasty meals. It is great to be able to put some targets around this, and to focus on getting more veg into kids’ lunches,” said Megan Waring, head of nutrition at Caterlink Ltd.

Vertas has pledge to develop its menus to ensure that a minimum six varieties of vegetables and salads are available each week in customers’ meal experiences. Extra vegetables will be added to some of their dishes. (including our ‘Life on the Veg’ and ‘Pulse’ menu specials) and they will offer fresh homemade vegetable soup as a daily special during the winter months in high schools.

“We’ve already made great strides in reducing sugar and salt across our education menus. For younger students we’re using vegetables like beetroot and parsnip as natural sweeteners, for teenagers we have ‘Life on the Veg’ and ‘Pulse’ dishes, offering healthier, more sustainable options,” said Caroline Thompson-Barr, head of operations at Vertas. “Signing up to this national initiative was an obvious decision for us as encouraging children and young people to eat more vegetables makes perfect sense. We are looking forward to serving even more tasty veg across the business.”

Elsewhere in the foodservice sector, Olive Catering has committed to increase vegetable servings by 10%, as well as promoting seasonal vegetables with recipe ideas and implementing veg smoothie bars in contracts, while the University of West London has also made a pledge by providing courses to its catering students on healthy and sustainable food, with a particular focus on why vegetables are an important part of the solution. It will also increase servings of vegetables by 10% across three of its restaurants and canteens.

Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, which helps to coordinate Please Please, said: “Peas Please shows that it is possible to make it easier for everyone to eat more veg but it needs concerted leadership from progressive businesses. We’ve made great progress in the last eight months but the pressure is now on to change pledges into portions to ensure genuine impact on the nation’s health.”

The new pledgers come as Veg Power and ITV launch the Eat Them to Defeat Them new advertising campaign to get children eating more vegetables, which includes free resources for schools and caterers to bring the message into the classroom and dining room.