Families that grow their own food eat more fruit and veg and waste less, according to a new study.
Researchers found that households in the UK that grow their own fruits and vegetables in allotments or gardens can improve their diet, reduce waste, and even help to increase national food self-sufficiency.
Food growers are able to produce just over half of their annual supply of vegetables (51 percent) and 20 percent of their fruit supply, according to the Sheffield University study.
They also eat 70 percent more fruit and veg than the UK national average.
Grow-their-own households also produce 95 percent less fruit and veg waste than the average UK household
The study analyzed what fruits and veg household food growers produced and consumed in an entire year.
As well as providing sustainable access to fresh fruit and veg, the research team found household food growers ate 6.3 portions of the recommended “five-a-day” – 70 percent higher than the UK national average of only 3.7 portions.
Study author Dr. Zilla Gulyas said: “Eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is associated with significantly decreased risks of developing health issues like obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, and could help prevent associated deaths and cut healthcare costs worldwide.
“Our new study highlights the role that growing fruit and vegetables at a household scale could play in increasing their consumption.”
Households that had the ability to grow their own also wasted little, with just 0.12 portions a day of fruit and veg being thrown out on average, 95 percent lower than the fruit and vegetable waste of the average UK household.
Dr. Gulyas said it suggests that household food production was associated with more waste-reducing behaviors which could also increase household food security on a national scale.
She said participants often donated unneeded food items or froze excess food for later use.
According to the National Food Strategy, published in 2021, developing the ability of the national food system to provide sufficient amounts of healthy food for all, whilst withstanding socio-economic and environmental shocks, and pressures from continued rapid urbanization and climate change, is a key priority in the UK.
Dr. Gulyas says household-level food production could play an important role in promoting both healthy diets and food system resilience.
But she said people would need better access to space and other resources needed to grow their own.
Dr. Gulyas added: “We need to find ways to overcome socio-economic challenges to upscaling household food production, especially among those most affected by low fruit and vegetable intakes, like low-income families.
“Increasing the amount of space available to UK households to produce their own food is essential to this, especially given the steady decline in allotment land nationally.”
Dr. Jill Edmondson, from the University of Sheffield’s Institute for Sustainable Food and School of Biosciences, said: “Global food security is one of the biggest challenges we will face in the future. Therefore it’s crucial that we find new ways to increase the resilience of the UK food system.
“This study provides the first long-term evidence that household food production could play in promoting healthier diets through self-sufficiency and adds important support to any policy making that seeks to expand household level fruit and vegetable production.”
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Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Arnab Nandy