New initiatives and the popularity of Junior MasterChef are teaching children how to grow and cook their own food and instilling in them a greater understanding of healthy eating by making the process fun, according to the latest quarterly vegetable industry report, Veginsights.

AUSVEG is the National Peak Industry Body representing over 7,000 vegetable growers.

The Veginsights report, which provides analysis of markets and consumer behaviour for the second quarter of 2010, as well as broader insights about food market trends, cites the recent popularity of Junior MasterChef and kitchen-garden programs–involving edible gardening and scratch cooking–as highly influential in helping children to re-establish the link between the food they see in supermarkets and the fresh produce that is harvested in the fields on farms.

AUSVEG spokesperson Andrew White said that it was important that the younger generation had at least a basic understanding about the processes that go into food production.

“These days if you ask many young people they’ll say that food comes from the supermarket or grocery store. It’s as if the education process about where food actually comes from has disappeared, perhaps a product of our busy lifestyles built on convenience,” Mr White said.

“With the recent popularity of television shows like MasterChef we’ve seen a new level of enthusiasm for food and as a result we believe there are now some unique opportunities to promote healthy eating and develop public health initiatives amongst young people, to capitalise on that momentum and turn it into greater vegetable consumption,” Mr White said.

“Kitchen gardening programs like the Stephanie Alexander program and McCain’s School Veggie Patches program have sought to address the gap in education about vegetables and where they come from and that’s great for the industry,” Mr White said.

“McCain’s Veggie Patches program now has more than 1,700 registered primary schools, indicating real uptake by young people and genuine popularity in the school curriculum.”

Veginsights shows that consumers are also cooking more often. Steaming, boiling, roasting and stir-frying increased by a further 5 per cent, with 95 per cent of households using these methods in the second quarter, up from 90 per cent and 87 per cent in the past two quarters.

“The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program has been implemented in around 130 schools. Participants have one weekly session in the garden and then a double session cooking with produce they have grown. These programs are very innovative and will have positive benefits for the industry, and for society in terms of long-term public health benefits.”

Indications of a much higher demand for fresh vegetable products that suit scratch preparation were also evident in the first quarter just as the second series of MasterChef hit TV screens, before stabilising in the second quarter. There was an increase in the number of affluent households purchasing fresh vegetables in the first quarter, with 8 per cent more singles and couples with a higher income purchasing fresh products.

Veginsights is produced by Freshlogic, a food market analysis and consulting firm, and is funded by the National Vegetable Levy and matched funds from the Australian Government.

MEDIA CONTACT: Andrew White, Manager – VIDP Communications, AUSVEG Ph: (03) 9822 0388, Mob: 0409 989 575, Email: