Photo Credit: Veg Ware

‘Eat Them To Defeat Them’, which takes place from 20th February to 31st March 2023, is an annual campaign run by Veg Power to encourage primary schoolchildren to eat more vegetables.

According to Veg Power, nearly a third of children aren’t eating enough vegetables, which is critical to their health. Since the campaign started in 2019, the programme has led to sales of almost one billion additional children’s portions of vegetables, worth just under £92 million. This coming year, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky will be supporting the campaign with £3m of advertising.

Before launching the programme in 2019, Veg Power undertook research which revealed the approach of telling children to eat more vegetables because they’re good for them just wasn’t working. Dan Parker, CEO, Veg Power, says “This approach failed as children don’t buy into health messages. If you want to be successful in getting them to try new foods, finding the fun in the food is critical.”

Further research showed that many children see vegetables as the “enemy” in a battle of wills between them and their parents at family meal times. Dan said “We needed to create an aura of fun and put adults and children on the same side. We took the unusual approach of agreeing with children that vegetables are evil. They are the enemy and the only way to defeat them is to eat them.”

Creating a buzz

Participating schools and their caterers work together to create excitement through lesson plans, serving special meals, decorating the dining hall, dressing up and so on. They receive a huge array of assets, both digital and printed, such as posters, teaching aids, games and stickers. Each child is given a poster progression chart which they colour in noting which vegetable has been sampled.

Children receive a sticker as a reward for trying a new vegetable. Dan says, “When the parents see the sticker, they ask about it. “I tried broccoli and got a sticker,” their child might tell them. To support that, we give parents online resources and an information pack so they can make the most of the opportunity.”

Meal themes

Caterers receive ten meal themes, each with a fun name and narrative for children to turn it into a story, all based on standard school fare. Dan says “For example, with cottage pie there’s a layer of carrots at the bottom. The story for the kids is that the carrots are buried in the centre of the earth. They have to break through the earth’s crust, dig through the steaming hot larva, find the carrots at the bottom and eat them to defeat them! Kids love an adventure where they become a hero.”

Register as soon as possible

Schools are being urged to apply for the support kit as soon as possible on the web site  Dan says “We try our hardest to support every school that registers, but we are limited by funds – it’s on a first come, first served basis.”

Caterers’ Challenge

As part of the programme, the Caterers’ Challenge competition will be held, sponsored by Tilda. The winning team will receive a trophy, certificate and cheque for £500 which will be presented at the LACA Awards for Excellence in July. This is awarded for a catering team’s enthusiasm and commitment to encourage children to try more vegetables.

Dan says “Every year we are blown away by the amazing entries. The school catering teams play such as pivotal role in bringing this campaign to life for children.”