25 percent of secondary school children eat less than one portion of vegetables a day — and nearly a fifth of the vegetables they do eat are from baked beans and pizza toppings, The Times reports.
Data collected by the Food Foundation think tank, shows that children are eating fewer vegetable portions — with sales of peas and Brussels sprouts dropping sharply — than they did five years ago. Pizza toppings and baked beans represent 17 percent of the vegetables teenagers eat.
The Food Foundation’s executive director, Anna Taylor has said the figures showed the government’s public awareness campaign to get people eating at least five pieces of fruit or vegetables a day had failed. She commented:
“We are facing a massive diet-related crisis among our young people. They are eating the same level of veg as in the 1970s and that includes baked beans and toppings on pizza like tomatoes which are highly processed foods. The five-a-day campaign has had no real impact.”
One in 10 primary school children eat less than a portion of vegetables a day and 33 percent of nurseries do not serve vegetables daily. Taylor has warned the situation would get worse as food prices rise. She wants more vegetable-based snacks to be offered in shops and vending machines.
The restaurant owner and school meals campaigner John Vincent says children should be eating at least seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day, commenting:
“Kids should be eating more plants as a percentage of their diets but we have forgotten how to make veg taste good. We see veg as a steamed or boiled extra on the side. It should be at the centre of our plates.”
The figures come at a time when child obesity rates are rising. Statistics released last week show a fifth of children starting school and a third of those leaving primary school are overweight or obese.