Workforce nutrition in the fruit and veg sector: A natural match


20 January 2021 —  Nature’s Pride is a leading fruit and vegetable importer in Europe. At the start of the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables, as designated by the UN General Assembly, and as part of its commitment to sustainability the company has entered into a partnership with GAIN to improve health by promoting the better nutrition of workers in the fruit and vegetable sector.

With financing of the Nature’s Pride Foundation, GAIN’s Nutrition at Work Handbook will be made publicly available in four languages. Moreover, Nature’s Pride itself will put the handbook into practice with two strategic suppliers from Peru and South Africa. Coen van Iwaarden of the Nature’s Pride Foundation explains why a focusing on nutrition is a priority.

Nature’s Pride’s core purpose as a fruit and vegetable company is to make the world healthier and more sustainable. Of course, we aim to do this through the healthy products which we deliver to our customers, but we have for some time been aware of a paradox within our own supply chain: that the people who spend a large part of their day harvesting and packaging fruit and vegetables don’t necessarily eat healthy diets themselves. There are a couple of visuals which illustrate why nutrition is such a good fit for Nature’s Pride.

The first relates to diets. The two photos below show what an average family eats in a week in the US (broadly representing Western consumers) and in Mali (broadly representing our workers families and growers in Latin America, Africa, and Asia). What do these two photos have in common? Both families don’t eat a sufficiently nutritious diet. At Nature’s Pride, we aim to improve the European consumers’ diets with our products – the question is, what more can we do for the people in our supply chain?

The second visual is from the 2019 EAT-Lancet report[1]. This was a seminal moment for the Nature’s Pride Foundation. The EAT-Lancet report very clearly tells us a hard truth: our current diet is completely out of balance to keep us, and the planet that sustains us, healthy. If we don’t change, we’re going to be in serious trouble.

The experts of the EAT-Lancet Commission recommend a change in diet and more sustainable production. Nature’s Pride happens to have both topics at the heart of its operations. The synergies between Nature’s Pride as a company and the added value that the Foundation can create through its partnership with GAIN are clear. 

Nutrition as a part of core business – and the supply chain

With GAIN, we are piloting the Nutrition at Work Handbook with our biggest mango grower in Peru and a major avocado grower South Africa. The beauty of the Nutrition at Work Handbook is that it provides clear, tangible guidance for businesses already providing food or snacks to workers to make a difference. It provides information on building a healthy meal or snack, managing a workforce nutrition programme, and monitoring impact. Most of our suppliers already have a canteen and are providing at least one meal to workers: we know that slightly tweaking a meal can make a huge difference to people’s health, for example bringing in fortified rice, or adding in fruit and vegetables. We’re also looking at bringing healthier produce to shops on estates, so that workers can access more fruits and vegetables and take them home.

When we explained the concept of nutrition at work to our growers they immediately understood its potential benefits, both for the workers and his family, as well as for the company. It has been shown that improving workers’ nutrition reduces absenteeism, sick days and medical costs, and enhances productivity and job satisfaction, to name just a few benefits[2]. Growers understood that small changes, nudges, can make a big impact. We hope to roll out the Nutrition at Work Handbook to much more of our dedicated growers, once we have the results of the pilot.

The ripple effect

Nature’s Pride has three key values that it holds dear: Together – we work together with others in the value chain; Passion – we work with dedication; and Pioneer – we are a market leader, and with this comes responsibility. We always push the limits, every day we try to do better. We hope that our investment in nutrition will have a ripple effect beyond our own growers: that, if we move our weight behind this topic mobilizing our global network of growers and high-profile clients in Europe, we can send an encouraging message to a wide audience. With this in mind, we have supported GAIN in making the handbook publicly available and accessible in four major languages: English, Spanish, French and Portuguese.

References

  1. Food in The Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets From Sustainable Food Systems, 2019.
  2. The Evidence for Workforce Nutrition Programmes, GAIN, 2019.

This blog is by Coen van Iwaarden, Nature’s Pride


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.