With the Covid-19 pandemic, global food insecurity is at an all-time high. UNICEF estimates that around 800 million people went hungry in 2020. To help combat this crisis, Dole Sunshine Company recently made a promise to make nutritious foods accessible to one billion people by 2025. The food company has enlisted Dr. Lara Ramdin to serve as its first Chief Innovation Officer, leading innovation and sustainability efforts. These include reducing fruit loss, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and eliminating fossil-based plastic waste.
In 2020, Dole piloted a model program in Jackson, Mississippi, helping to create a food oasis and build a sustainable model for access, affordability and awareness. The city is one of America’s largest food deserts, with only one grocery store for every 10,000 residents. Now, the program is expanding to other cities. In addition, Dole has worked to raise awareness of food insecurity to new heights with its Malnutrition Labels initiative, projecting eye-catching murals onto iconic buildings in NYC, Baltimore and LA.
Along with spurring awareness and action, Dole is also investing. The company recently launched The Sunshine for All Fund, which supports strategic partnerships and investments in increasing food access and reducing food waste around the world. Nearly one-quarter of the world’s population is experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity, and one-third of food produced globally for human consumption is lost or wasted. In its first year, the $2 million investment fund is working with innovators, start-ups, and progressive partners to help achieve its goals.
One year later, Dole is seeing clear indicators of moving the needle on all targets mentioned in the Dole Promise.
● In 2020, through its Sunshine for All Cities Program, Dole helped distribute 1.9 tons of nutritious products.
● Thanks to reformulation and innovation, 47% of Dole’s food and beverage product portfolio now contains zero processed sugar as the company strives to deliver the same taste from natural ingredients.
● Since 2019, Dole has achieved a 12% decrease in carbon emissions across global operations. In addition, by evaluating ways of upcycling so-called “ugly” fruit into new products and/or repurposing fruit into compost or biogas, 89% of Dole’s potential fruit loss was repurposed.
Leading these efforts is Dr. Lara Ramdin, who has a PhD in biology and an extensive global track record in R&D, product development and innovation within leading organizations including Unilever, Estee Lauder and Molson Coors Beverages Company.
“We’re in transformation mode at Dole,” Ramdin says. “We are in the process of rethinking our portfolio, our products, the way we produce, how we work with partners, our business models, how we develop our teams, how we treat the world, how we interact and engage with our consumers and how we look at the future. For a company like ours, where you can literally ‘eat’ our purpose, it’s important to champion a world where access to nutrition is a human right for all.”
In her current role, the greatest challenge Ramdin faces is keeping Dole’s word. She explains, “As a company, we’ve made major promises to the communities we work with and in a larger sense, the world. Now we have to do the work to keep those promises. We are on a mission to create a world where everyone—irrespective of age, income, location, or gender—has access to healthy nutrition and where our access to healthy food is not to the detriment of the planet now or in the future.”
To young people looking to tap into their life purpose, Ramdin suggests pursuing mentorships. “Mentors have played a huge role in my journey,” she says. “I’ve been lucky enough to have a few great mentors who guided me and really shaped my experiences and helped me to hone my passion for innovation and for storytelling.” These days, Ramdin is giving back by mentoring young women in STEM through organizations like The Girls’ Network and 1MMentors organizations. “I am really passionate about advocating for women in all areas of science and technology,” she says.