Tackling Food Waste… At Home and On NYC’s Streets

Originally printed in the October 2021 issue of Produce Business.

Globally, 1.4 billion tons of food are wasted each year. The United States makes up nearly 40 million tons of that, with food being the largest component in our landfills. With the population continuing to grow and food being produced at a rapid pace, how can we combat this and implement sustainable solutions for the future?

A consumer pulse survey released last month by the Dole Sunshine Company revealed significant education gaps when it comes to the impact of food waste on hunger, with a third of Americans admitting they make no effort to reduce food waste at home. On average, families of four in America trash $1,600 per year in produce and make up 61% of overall food waste. Nearly 10% of global carbon emissions are connected to unconsumed produce annually, an alarming number that we need to address head-on in order to create positive change.

Working at the Dole Sunshine Company, where we can literally eat our purpose, gives me a unique perspective on this topic. We believe that good nutrition is a human right and meant for all, so it’s important for us to educate consumers on food waste and its effects.

As an organization that’s been active for 120 years, we have a major voice in the industry and take responsibility for implementing changes that will better the planet, people and our stakeholders. In 2020, we sent 39,700 metric tons of food waste to landfills. Eleven percent of that went to landfills owned and operated by us, and is repurposed as composting material, animal feed and soil conditioner. In addition, we have many exciting sustainable product and packaging innovations in the pipeline, as well as current approaches to upcycling and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

There are so many ways and resources for consumers to start reducing their food waste at home. One solution that consumers can implement immediately is to be more mindful about purchases. Before heading to the grocery store, have a game plan in place so you’re purchasing items that you need and ultimately won’t end up in the garbage. Take some time to choose a few healthy recipes to cook that week and scan your pantry and refrigerator’s inventory to see what items you have and need to be consumed.

With busy schedules, it can be hard to make it to the grocery store each week, leading to ordering food to-go from your favorite local restaurant. While it’s great to support local business, note that 26% of food waste comes from foodservice. Innovative apps like Too Good To Go today connect consumers with food from restaurants that would otherwise be thrown away.

Additionally, there are grocery delivery services that sell a surplus of produce that is unwanted by supermarkets. At Dole, we are evaluating ways of repurposing fruit that doesn’t meet our strict appearance requirements, this so-called “ugly” fruit, into new product ranges such as beverages, frozen, snacking and banana flour.

After purchasing produce, consider washing, prepping and chopping it so it’s easy to grab for snacks or cooking. Any scraps — think carrot tops, apple cores, banana peels, etc. — can be composted in your own at-home compost bin, or given to your local community compost. Another great tip is to look at upcoming expiration dates and pop those items in the freezer to use at a later date, that way nothing goes to waste.

Aside from promoting and encouraging food waste in the home, we recently launched Dole’s Malnutrition Labels. This series was first introduced earlier this year in New York City, taking inspiration from traditional nutrition labels that called attention to nutrition issues and insecurities through larger-than-life projections on iconic buildings.

We are once again acting on our mission of educating consumers through Malnutrition Labels: Food Waste — our current installment focused on waste reduction with staggering food statistics appearing on Bigbelly smart waste and recycling bins, trash bags and waste removal trucks. This initiative takes symbols of trash and reconstructs them into tools that will spark action and keep consumers educated and conscious when making food choices. Each malnutrition label encourages everyone to do their part and #ChangetheFacts by reducing food waste at home or donating to food rescue organizations such as City Harvest in New York City.

In June 2020, Dole announced The Dole Promise, with its three pillars around nutrition, sustainability and the creation of shared value. The start of any journey is often the hardest, but we are driven and dedicated to reaching our highly ambitious targets. I am proud to work at an organization that’s making a difference and taking responsibility for its food waste, while also educating our customers.

We want you to be involved in the conversation so that you can make better decisions for your health, wallets and most importantly, the planet.

The Dole Sunshine Company is on a mission to deliver high-quality fresh and packaged fruit with positive impact on people, planet, and prosperity. Since its humble, yet mission-driven beginnings, Dole has believed that good, healthy food should be more like sunshine – available for all. The brand’s rallying cry of “Sunshine for All” is important not only for the company, but for all people across the world. Dole Sunshine wants to champion an equitable world where everyone — irrespective of age, income, location, race, or gender — has access to healthy nutrition, but where this access does not come at the cost of the planet.