A year (and more) of eating fresh fruits and vegetables

written by Michael Pooley, 22nd June 2021, in CEO Insights

By declaring 2021 as the UN International Year of Fruits and Vegetables, the United Nations has set a worthy challenge to individuals, organizations and governments. If enough of us take it up, 2021 will be the year more people were able to eat a healthy and balanced diet sourced from a sustainable fresh food supply chain. The dual focus on health and sustainability would certainly lead to a lasting impact on the environment, a target we wholeheartedly support here at IFCO.

How do we promote a sustainable food system?

The COVID-19 pandemic and the apparent fragility of our way of life has led to greater awareness and concerns — both within many organizations and among the general public — about healthier lifestyles and the importance of building a globally sustainable future. UN International Year of Fruits and Vegetables, (IYFV2021) seeks to build on that knowledge and to address those concerns.

In addition, this initiative aims to inspire consumers to consider their healthy food choices more holistically and to take sourcing and sustainability into consideration when choosing their fresh fruit and vegetables. IYFV2021 also ties into the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

This means that we should look not only at the food once it ends up on our plate, critically viewing any health benefits it brings, but that we also consider its entire journey from where it is grown to the point of consumption. How, for instance, have the production methods and transportation impacted the environment? This part of the UN challenge is not only directed at consumers, but also at all aspects and stages along the fresh supply chain.

A challenge to the best minds

What I took away from reading The International Year of Fruits and Vegetables, 2021 background paper , is that IYFV2021 is primarily designed to focus the best minds on promoting a more sustainable food supply. One line on the opening pages of the report aptly summarizes the overriding goal of IYFV2021. It reads: "Different actors can contribute to making fruits and vegetables more accessible, affordable and available." So, who are these actors, you might wonder? Governments, policymakers, food producers and supply chain stakeholders are all part of this group.

"Improving accessibility and affordability while reducing food loss and waste will require a solid commitment to premium food quality and food safety"

Michael Pooley, IFCO CEO

A team effort on food production

Creating a healthy, affordable and sustainable food system requires innovation and commitment across the sector. This includes improving the situation for farmers, retailers, logistics providers and consumers. These are the very areas that IFCO has been passionately supporting since our services launched back in 1992. And across each one, we always promote environmental sustainability.

Personally, I see IFCO as a leading actor in the fresh supply chain which has long embraced the call to improve accessibility and affordability to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Dual emphasis: health and sustainability

Most importantly, the UN highlights that supporting healthy, affordable and sustainable food production must go hand in hand with reducing food loss and waste. I welcome this dual emphasis as it ties in seamlessly with our own IFCO commitments. When one third of our food never gets eaten, reducing food loss and waste needs to be tackled head on.

Rising to the UN challenge will require long-term investment. Improving accessibility and affordability while reducing food loss and waste will require a solid commitment to premium food quality and food safety. These are the core elements that are driving our own purpose at IFCO.

Looking beyond 2021

In the past 12 months the world’s attention has been focused on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, the demand from consumers for more sustainable solutions has not abated. If anything, we see its intensity increasing with consumers critically assessing whether an organization’s values align to their own personal views and principles. This is definitely being reflected in the way that the most forward-thinking retailers are sourcing, packing and transporting fresh fruit and vegetables to the point of sale. Although consumer sentiment will evolve further over time, I believe one thing will remain constant; the personal and environmental benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables that are sustainably produced and delivered.

What are your thoughts? Are there further benefits to be had from declaring 2021 The International Year of Fruits and Vegetables?

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