Leading horticultural body AUSVEG is calling on Australian consumers to ‘Try for 5’ serves of vegetables each day and think of creative ways to incorporate more vegetables into their diets to reduce waste for National Nutrition Week, which runs from 13-19 October 2019.
National Nutrition Week is an initiative of Nutrition Australia that coincides with the United Nations World Food Day on Wednesday 16 October. This year’s theme is Embrace your Veg Waste, which encourages Australians to discover new ways to incorporate vegetables into their diets, not only boosting their health by increasing their vegetable consumption but helping to address the important issue of food waste.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, less than four per cent of Australians consume the recommended number of vegetable serves per day. It is estimated that less than one per cent of children and teenagers meet the recommended quota.
“Most Australians fall alarmingly short of eating five or more serves of veggies each day, with adults on average only eating around half of the recommended five or more serves of vegetables daily. This has a severe impact on our physical and mental health, as well as the sustainability of the vegetable industry,” AUSVEG CEO James Whiteside said.
“Further to this, it is estimated that around 40 per cent of items that end in the bin are food, with the average Australian household disposing over a thousand dollars’ worth each year, which costs the Australian economy around $20bn each year.
“AUSVEG is calling on Australian consumers this National Nutrition Week to find creative ways to incorporate five or more serves of veggies into their daily diets and reduce vegetable waste – if more vegetables are eaten rather than sent to landfill it will dramatically improve public health in an environmentally-sustainable way.”
The vegetable industry has invested in research and innovative ways to address the important issue of food waste to reduce its impact on the environment and the economy and to help increase vegetable consumption. These include:
· Educating growers on ways to value-add their produce that may become second grade, such as using them in dips, pre-packed and pre-cut salads, juices and other innovative ways where the way that the vegetable looks does not matter.
· More efficient and environmentally-sustainable farming practices to reduce on-farm waste and increase yield to make the most efficient use of available farming land.
· Donating excess food to charity organisations such as Foodbank, Secondbite and OzHarvest, which use excess food to provide much-needed assistance to families who otherwise would not be able to eat fresh produce.
According to Nutrition Australia CEO Lucinda Hancock, National Nutrition Week is an important initiative not only to get consumers thinking about how they can eat more vegetables to maintain a well-balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle, but for the vegetable industry to think about how it can work to increase healthy food consumption and reduce waste.
“Vegetables are one of the most under-consumed food groups and one of the most over-represented food groups in relation to food waste, so it is vital that we have the support of the industry in encouraging consumers to eat more vegetables and working with producers to find ways to reduce food waste, particularly through value-added products that can provide a high return for farming businesses,” said Ms Hancock.
“The vegetable industry is very supportive of initiatives such as National Nutrition Week to reduce food waste and encourage more consumers to eat more vegetables as growers don’t want to see healthy, good quality produce go to waste,” said Mr Whiteside.