The significance of self-sufficiency in fruits and vegetables: Is It achievable?

A balanced diet is crucial for maintaining good health and preventing diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. However, many people, even in high-income countries, face challenges in accessing healthy food due to financial constraints and cultural factors. In countries like the UK, USA, and EU, most individuals do not consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Despite government efforts to promote consumption, only a small percentage of the population meets the daily target of 400 grams. 

Additionally, there are socioeconomic disparities in vegetable consumption, with the poor consuming fewer vegetables than the wealthy. This disparity can lead to different health outcomes. Inadequate fruit and vegetable intake contributes to a significant number of premature deaths and healthcare expenses annually. The lack of proper nutrition is causing a rise in non-communicable diseases, obesity, and an overall impact on society.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of global fruit and vegetable supply chains and the issue of food insecurity in urban areas. In response, the UK has developed a new food strategy to increase domestic food production and ensure resilience in the face of future disruptions. The focus is on reducing inequalities in access to healthy food and improving the overall resilience of the food system.

The pandemic-led shortage of commodities has brought attention to urban gardening as a solution for food security. Research suggests that home-grown yields can be just as high as traditional methods, and urban gardening can meet a significant portion of food needs. Additionally, home food production can improve nutrition and encourage healthy eating habits. Even though potatoes may not be part of dietary recommendations, their cultivation in home gardens can play a crucial role in ensuring food security.


A study was conducted involving 197 people engaged in food growing in the UK. Participants kept records on the production of fruits and vegetables, including potatoes, as well as their purchases, collections, donations, and waste. The organization recruited participants through social media and word of mouth. The study was conducted over a one-year period, starting in July 2020. It's worth noting that the study participants were experienced gardeners, and the study was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading participants to have more time to spend in their vegetable plots. Therefore, the data may not be representative of typical practices.


In the study, 67.1% of participants used both allotments and home gardens for food crops, while 16.5% relied solely on allotments and 16.5% solely on home gardens. Participants had a median food-growing experience of 20 years (from 6 months to 60 years). Most (75.3%) adopted organic gardening methods. The average cultivated area for food production was 120.5 m². Participants spent about 4 hours per week on food gardening, with allotment holders visiting 2-3 times a week.

Over half (53.9%) of the produce came from supermarkets or markets, 31.5% from allotments, 12.5% from home gardens, 2.1% from other growers, and 0.1% from foraging. All participants grew vegetables, with fruits and potatoes grown by 98%. On average, they cultivated 37.5 different fruits and vegetable crops, focusing more on vegetables than fruits. Commonly grown vegetables included tomatoes, courgettes, beetroot, rhubarb, carrots, onions, leeks, lettuce, beans, peas, cucumbers, and cabbage. Frequent fruits included apples, raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, and gooseberries.

95% shared their produce, 72% received from other growers, and 19% foraged. Few reported no produce waste, some composted or fed it to livestock. Most participants froze or preserved produce, especially from June to November, and continued to use these items throughout the year.

Participants' year-round self-sufficiency in produce ranged from 14.9% to 92.3%, with a median of 41.1%. Specifically, self-sufficiency in potatoes averaged 49.7%, in vegetables 51.1%, and in fruits 20.2%. 

On average, the produce participants grew accounted for half of their annual household 400 gramms requirements, providing 1.9 portions of vegetables and 0.5 portions of fruit per person. Self-sufficiency levels calculated from consumption records closely correlated with the levels perceived by participants.

Own-grown produce varied seasonally, with the lowest yields in February (1.2 kg) and the highest in August (54.2 kg). Purchased produce weights remained relatively constant throughout the year but had a slight dip from May to September, followed by an increase during winter. Monthly produce waste was generally minimal, with a slight increase from July to October, reaching up to 0.2 g per month. Monthly self-sufficiency ranged from 4.8% in February to 77.2% in August, remaining over 50% from July to September.

In participant households, the median per capita fruit and vegetable (F&V) intake was 507.3 grams per day.  The median per capita intake for fruits was 2.3 portions, and for vegetables, it was 3.9 portions. On average, households consumed a variety of 69.6 different F&V crop types throughout the year, ranging from 32 to 118. Notably, participants tended to consume more than twice as many types of vegetables (48.4 on average) compared to fruits (21.9 on average). This difference was statistically significant.

In this study, the best linear models related to annual crop production and yield per area were identified. For assessing annual crop production, the following factors were taken into account: the area used for food cultivation, the frequency of plot visits, grower experience, and household size. It was found that the annual crop weight increased with each additional weekly plot visit, each year of grower experience, and for every 1 square meter increase in cultivation area. The impact of household size was insignificant.

For yield per area, the following factors were considered: the area used for food cultivation, grower experience, household size, the number of weekly hours spent on gardening, and the frequency of weekly plot visits. It was observed that yield increased with each additional person in the household and each year of grower experience but decreased with an increase in the total cultivated area in square meters. The frequency of plot visits and the amount of time spent gardening had no significant effects.

The model for fruit self-sufficiency indicates that an increase in the growing area has a positive influence on self-sufficiency, while an increase in the number of people in the household reduces it.


Homegrown fruits and vegetables offer a means to bridge the gap between our dietary needs and our access to fresh, nutritious produce. This becomes increasingly relevant as we face the challenges of a rapidly evolving global landscape, marked by shifting food supply chains, pandemics, and economic uncertainties.

The data presented in this article highlight that, for those who have the opportunity, self-sufficiency in fruits and vegetables is within reach. By cultivating our own produce or at least moving closer to this goal, we can significantly impact our health and well-being. Research has shown that an adequate intake of fruits and vegetables plays a pivotal role in the prevention of non-communicable diseases such as heart diseases, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. This self-sufficiency isn't just about ensuring enough food on the table; it's about securing a healthier future for ourselves and our loved ones.

Furthermore, the economic implications cannot be understated. By reducing our reliance on commercial food sources and making use of readily available land for cultivation, we can reduce the financial burden on healthcare systems and bolster personal finances. The potential savings in healthcare costs are substantial, and the economic benefits of reduced food expenses and even surplus for local markets contribute to a stronger national economy.

So, whether you have a green thumb or are just starting to explore the world of home gardening, consider taking steps to enhance your self-sufficiency in fruits and vegetables. By doing so, you'll not only enrich your diet but also contribute to a brighter and healthier tomorrow, both for yourself and the world around you.