aspirations + statistics

I hope you are well rested, well fed and full of good intentions for healthy living in 2011. We will be doing all we can to help you turn those intentions into action. For years now the nation has been talking about seasonal cooking; I am hoping 2011 will be the year when aspirations in the media are reflected by reality in the kitchen.

I have spent some of those idle days off reading the UK Statistics Authority’s report on what we, as a nation, eat and what we pay for it. I did go out a few times but found this surprisingly gripping stuff; here are a few highlights. Consumption of fresh green vegetables over the past 30 years has declined by 45%. In the last three years (to 2009), household consumption of fruit and vegetables fell by 8.5%. Fresh green vegetables on their own fell even more, by 9.2%. That’s an annual 3% decline; the fall in consumption has actually accelerated. Part of the explanation could be that veg prices have risen by over a third. Interestingly (again despite the hype), the amount we are growing ourselves in gardens and allotments has been constant for four years at about 3% of total consumption (actually pretty impressive I thought), though we do grow a staggering 40% of our own green beans (largely runners, I suspect). How do they know this stuff? Is there someone sneaking around allotments with scales and a tape measure?

My interest in these statistics goes beyond mere male nerdiness; I am interested in the gulf they reveal between the behaviour we aspire to and what we actually do in practice. Despite the hype from celebrity chefs, their endless fantasy cookery programmes and professed enthusiasm for seasonality; and despite the best endeavours of our government with its ‘five a day’ campaign, the consumption of fresh, unprocessed vegetables continues to decline. Will aspiration inevitably lead to action? From the statistics there is no sign yet but I live in hope. We will do what we can to aid the conversion. Last year we launched our Riverford Cooks programme; we now have about 50 cooks working around the UK giving low key, practical cookery lessons and demonstrations, mainly in the home. We will continue to put recipes in your boxes every week and hope that our online 'What's What in the Box' videos are proving useful. And we will have a new cook book, planned for May.

Guy Watson from Riverford in Devon