Parents have been telling kids to eat their vegetables for…well, forever. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vegetables are crucial for optimal child growth, weight management, and chronic disease prevention. And the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 2.7 million lives could potentially be saved every year if vegetable consumption was sufficiently increased.
Vegetables are not only nutritious and a necessary component of a healthy diet for both children and adults, but they are important for protecting the environment, preserving biodiversity, and raising incomes.
In developing countries, vegetable production can be one of the most sustainable and affordable ways of alleviating micronutrient deficiencies among the poor. Often referred to as hidden hunger, micronutrient deficiencies—including lack of Vitamin A, iron, and iodine—affect some 1 billion people worldwide. They lead to poor mental and physical development, especially among children, and cause poor performance in work and in school, further crippling communities already facing poverty and other health problems.
In Tanzania, Mali, and across Africa, researchers from AVRDC – World Vegetable Center are working with farmers and home cooks to develop more nutritious breeds of vegetables as well as ways to preserve and prepare vegetables to retain their nutrients. Organizations like The Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa are designed to improve the livelihood and and food security of low-income families in sub-Saharan Africa by increasing the production and exploiting the potential of a vegetable crop. And in India, the Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Keralam (VPCK) empowers vegetable farmers by offering production and marketing support, such as training, seed supplies, and access to farmer's markets.
In Chicago, vegetables are being produced all over the city. The Peterson Garden Project, for example, has seven community gardens, 664 plots, and 2.650 gardeners - and has ultimately helped to create stronger communities throughout the Chicagoland area while producing nutrient-rich vegetables.
And in Philadelphia, the Urban Nutrition Initiative works with over 10,000 students and their families to teach urban residents the importance of incorporating vegetables into their diets. Native Harvest is helping save and preserve seeds of indigenous vegetables. By reviving and protecting native seeds and heritage crops, they aim to promote land-based communities and resist the industrialized food system.
Vegetables are not only a key ingredient in healthy diets, but they can also improve both economic and environmental sustainability in rich and poor countries alike, helping nourish both people and the planet.
How are you making eating veggies fun in your household? Let us know in the comments!