BLOG / Why 2021 is ‘The Year of Fruits and Vegetables’

Why 2021 is ‘The Year of Fruits and Vegetables’

Author: Apeel Team

This is a campaign we can get behind: The UN General Assembly designated this year, 2021, as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IYFV).

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN is the agency leading the charge for this year’s celebration in collaboration with other organizations of the UN.

But why a year of fruits and vegetables? After all, isn’t every year a good year for produce? (We like to think so!)

This campaign is all about raising awareness of the important role that fresh fruits and vegetables play in human nutrition, in food security, and in our overall health. 

Most importantly, it’s a way to put focus on achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The Official Launch Event of the IYFV 2021

QU Dongyu, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, launched the initiative with a virtual event in December 2020, with an appeal to improve healthy and sustainable food production through innovation and technology and to reduce food loss and waste. It’s an appeal that Apeel can get behind.

Here are a few tenants of the IYFV that FAO hopes to share:  

  • Harness the goodness

Fruits and vegetables have multiple health benefits, including the strengthening of the immune system, that are essential for combating malnutrition in all its forms and overall prevention of non-communicable diseases.

  • Live by it: A diverse diet

Fruits and vegetables should be consumed in adequate amounts daily as part of a diversified and healthy diet.

  • Respect food from farm to table

The high perishability of fruits and vegetables needs special attention to maintain their quality and safety through appropriate treatment and handling across the supply chain from production to consumption in order to minimize loss and waste.

Speaking at the event, Dongyu described the initiative as "a unique opportunity to raise global awareness" and noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had challenged people to find new ways of fighting hunger and malnutrition. IYFV serves as a way to highlight the role of digital technologies in improving nutrition and market opportunities. 

A few notable callouts from the event:

  • Digital innovations make it possible to track and trace fresh produce from production to consumption which broadens market opportunities, reduces losses and waste, and makes the value chain more transparent.
  • The large diversity of fruits and vegetables offers options that are adapted to different production systems and markets.
  • Production of high-value fruits and vegetables can be profitable, compared to other crops, from small amounts of land, water and nutrients

While noting the challenges in improving production and agri-food chains, the FAO Director-General Dongyu encouraged countries to see the International Year as an opportunity to improve infrastructure, farming practices, and thereby supporting small scale farmers. He emphasized fruits and vegetables were a good way for farmers to create cash crops.

"In the current health crisis we are facing around the world, promoting healthy diets to strengthen our immune systems is especially appropriate," Qu said.

He also noted that food loss and waste in the fruits and vegetables sector remains a problem with considerable consequences,  and that "innovative technologies and approaches are of critical importance", as "they can help in maintaining safety and quality, increasing the shelf life of fresh produce items and preserving their high nutritional value."

The International Year of Fruits and Vegetables 2021 falls within the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016-2025) and the UN Decade of Family Farming (UNDFF 2019-2028). These observances reinforce each other while providing greater visibility to small-scale producers and raise awareness on food security and nutrition.

The International Year of Fruits and Vegetables has a nice ring to it. We’re excited to join forces with their IYFV campaign. After all, the more of us who join in the fight against food waste, the better. And with the global power of the U.N. focusing on this mission, we know we’re headed in a positive direction.