It is sad to know that far too many people in France do not eat nearly enough fruit and vegetables. That is why there is a year round TV campaign to get people to buy and eat more.
Today’s busy lifestyles mean that many people polled on the reasons for this phenomena cite two main reasons.
Firstly, they consider that preparing and cooking vegetables is tedious and time-consuming, and can be avoided if one buys good quality frozen vegetables and prepared meals.
Secondly, many people consider that fresh fruit and vegetables are too expensive given shrinking household budgets and expanding bills. In fact, as for meat, they are even considered a luxury by some.
And that is why the campaign exists. It encourages people to eat at least five different types of fruit and / or vegetables a day. The government is particularly worried about the long-term effects of not eating fresh products on children.
Here in Lyon the campaign took to the streets today in a downtown public square on a beautifully sunny day. It was good to walk along the alleys of fresh product stands and literally smell the beautiful aroma of strawberries or other fruits.
The stands are run by local farmers who bring along their produce and conduct an information campaign for the public, giving out leaflets and advice on selecting and using fruit and vegetables. All the product is given away during the afternoon.
Here is a typical stand.
This stand was that of the local association which protects the interests of fruit and vegetable producers in Lyon, and helps with, for example, the administrative side of working a market stall at one of Lyon’s many markets.
Lahmeris Tabet is the Vice-President of the Association, the SICAR, and he gave me more information on its work. Lahmeris is what you’d expect a guy who works on markets would be; quick-talking no-nonsense manner and a booming voice.
“What we worry about most is the kids. If parents don’t eat vegetables because they’re too much of a hassle, how on earth are their kids going to enjoy them?” He says he’s been coming to this campaign market for the last five years.
“When you think that the campaign began by asking people to eat ten fresh items a day, hoping that they’d eat just five, and, seeing as that didn’t work, now they ask people to eat just five, hoping they’ll eat just a couple, that’s not good.”
Here are some of the wonderful vegetables on the stand just next to where we were talking.
I happen to mention that most of the vegetables I eat come from the market held here on Friday evenings and he tells me that his Association helps those who work the stands there.
“If they have a problem with space allocation or paperwork or any other problem involving City Hall, we look after it for them. In any case, if they went to City Hall themselves, no-one would want to see them. But we have good contacts with City Hall and this system makes everything more efficient.”
He goes over to the stand and picks up a fistful of succulent-looking cherries which he offers me. They are delicious. While I’m eating them he gets the others on his stand together for a photo.
Here are Association members Lahmeris Tabert, Roger Pages, the SICAR President and Michel Campeggia, the member who prepared the displays of fruit and vegetables in the above photos.
So off I go, still munching cherries – how I love cherries – and walk around the stands getting a feel for it all. The picture at the top of the page is of one of the wonderful displays of fresh product dotted all around. There are a lot of people present and the stands are a very pretty sight.
As I said earlier, people don’t like preparing vegetables any more, so one of the organisers thought up a veggie-peeling competition, with enormous baskets of fruit as prizes for the winners. Here are the tables and utensils, all ready for the battle that shall take place later on. It’s a shame I won’t be able to see it
One stand intrigued me. There was make-up on the tables, brushes and powders too. And a young lady was painting cherries on the cheeks of another young lady. I wondered what on earth make-up could have to do with fresh food products.
“Oh no, this isn’t make-up” says the girl being made up. “Well, it is, but it’s for the kids. The make-up is a kind of water based paint and we paint fruit and vegetables onto children. They love it! All kids like to wear fun make-up, so we oblige them, and we also talk about food and eating at the same time.”
“Can I get a closer look at the painting on your cheek?”
And so it’s time to leave, and I’m feeling really hungry. I came home after my visit to the fruit and vegetable campaign and the first thing I did when I got in the door was to eat one of my favourite snack sandwiches.
A sliced banana, with a very small sprinkling of cassonade sugar, between two slices of wholemeal bread.
I’ve eaten that since my mother first made me one when I was a child. I was lucky that way. I ate lots of vegetables as a kid.
Let’s hope that more kids start to do so today in Lyon.