Primary school children across Hampshire are being encouraged to put their gnashers to work defeating vegetables – one big bite at a time. For the fifth year, Hampshire’s catering arm HC3S is at the forefront of Eat Them to Defeat Them, a national campaign running through the second half of the spring school term aimed at increasing vegetable consumption in this age group.

During the campaign, which begins as schools return from half term on 19 February, schools turn mealtimes into a game where vegetables are ‘baddies’ that can be defeated – in fun and silly ways, such as hoovering up a row of ‘naughty’ peas, or popping a ‘pesky’ tomato into  your mouth.

This annual campaign has been a success story in Hampshire schools, with parental feedback showing that 77 per cent of those taking part ate more vegetables as a result. With 29 per cent of children nationally eating less than one portion of vegetables per day [Peas Please report 2023, Food Foundation], these results are an important step in improving children’s diets and health.

Hampshire’s Executive Member for Education, Councillor Steven Forster, said: “Eat Them to Defeat Them is a genius idea that turns on its head the idea that vegetables are boring. The children know the veg are not really evil or taking over the world, and they know that the campaign is trying to get them to eat more of them, but they appreciate the fun and novelty aspect which takes away any apprehension and before long, eating up their veg just becomes normal.

“In Hampshire, the schools’ programme has also enabled us to increase meal numbers and reduce food waste which is a winning formula for a responsible local authority caterer. All too often vegetables have become a currency in a battle of wills between child and carer. With children feeling in control, and parents on the same side instead of having to battle at mealtimes, behaviour change can extend to home too.”

To keep the campaign going at home, activity sheets for children are available to download on the HC3S web pages.

Councillor Forster will launch the 2024 campaign at Andover Library on 14 February, where he will be joined by food ambassadors from Endeavour Primary School – pupils who promote healthy eating to their peers – at a public event where vegetable-related activities and school meal tasters such as vegetable curry and vegetable chilli will be available for parents and children to try. Families will also be able to discuss the school menu and free school meals.

Similar events will be held in Gosport and Fareham libraries during half term. All primary-aged schoolchildren and their families are welcome to join in the fun and get ready to defeat those veg as soon as school returns on 19 February. The preview events will take place as follows:

  • Wednesday 14 February, Andover Library (10 am – 11.30 am)
  • Thursday 15 February, Gosport Activity Centre (10 am – 11.30 am)
  • Thursday 15 February, Fareham Library (1.30 pm – 3 pm)

Visit the Eat Them to Defeat Them pages on the County Council website for more information.