Dole partnership creates an NFT series as a first step to fight global hunger

Teaming up with the "Hungry Artist" David Datuna, the company is dropping a five-part non-fungible token series.

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Image: David Datuna

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have been the latest fad in digital currency, offering a new way to purchase a slew of digital objects--everything from original music, such as a new Kings of Leon album to Jack Dorsey's first tweet, costing a pretty penny at $2.9 million. And the blockchain technology, which essentially cuts out the middleman and allows sellers to interact directly with their customers, is now being used for a new cause: Helping fight global hunger. That's right: A new NFT series, a partnership between the artist David Datuna and the food giant Dole, will raise money to help make healthy foods available to 1 billion people across the globe.

Datuna, a Georgian-born mixed-media artist, makes layered, collage-like pieces that often include photos, clippings and paintings, overlaid onto larger images, such as famous portraits--and his artwork often has political implications. One of his recent pieces, for instance, involved spelling "Trump" with blocks of ice, in Union Square in NYC--the melting blocks represented what would happen with climate change, as a result of then-President Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

The new partnership with Dole emerged from Datuna's involvement in a performance stunt at the 2019 Art Basel Miami. In this case, he actually consumed a piece of art, called "Comedian," which was, essentially, a banana taped to the wall, with a $120,000 price tag, created by the Italian-born artist Maurizio Cattelan. He didn't like that a banana, which costs 20 cents, was selling for this price and decided to do something to draw attention to it. The piece, and the act, which earned him the name "Hungry Artist," were meant to draw attention to the global hunger crisis, affecting 690 million people across the globe, according to the United Nations, and has been on the rise since then.

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The Dole-Datuna partnership will be a five-part series that helps highlight the link between nutrition and food insecurity, and is part of Dole's "Promise" campaign, which works to help provide access to nutrition, reduce food waste and carbon emissions. 

"The world is quite lopsided when it comes to nutrition; we live in a world of haves and have-nots," said Rupen Desai, global CMO at Dole. "Unhealthy food is far more accessible and far more affordable." So Dole decided to help change that. Thus the "Sunshine for All" campaign, which the current series falls under. 

Dole looked to Datuna because of a "shared purpose," Desai said. "Let's see what we can build together, auction off, and help people who have been dealt an unequal hand."

The idea is personal for Datuna. As a lifelong traveler, more recently, with his 15-year-old son, David, he's seen hunger firsthand. He credits his son with motivating him to action. 

"I have seen the look in my son David Jr.'s eyes as he asks me why the world doesn't come together to help," he said. "Thanks to the universe that the new generation is talking about important things, and thanks to the universe that my art can be used as a platform to raise awareness. I feel great pride to share with my son, we are working on a project together to combat food insecurity at a global level."

The five-part series will use fruit as a base, and, playing on the concept of "taking a bite out of hunger," will embody a narrative about human impact on the planet. The work will employ Datuna's signature "lens" technique: Using repurposed eyeglass lenses and layering images to present new viewpoints, and the final installment will be a montage of the first four pieces.

Dole and Datuna will give proceeds from the series to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which also has worked with Dole in Jackson, Mississippi. Dole has been making efforts recently to extend nutrition education to cities with food deserts, and these partnerships help connect communities, via places such as farmers markets, to food education.

NFTs are an important new technology--they allow artists and sellers to have full control over the distribution of an item, including tracking its use and preventing the creation of fakes. A recent survey from Piplsay demonstrates that 59% of Americans are confident that NFTs will become widely used in the art world (versus only 39% of British participants). If the new series is successful, it will demonstrate the ability for NFTs to be used toward philanthropic causes, as well.

"It's a bit of an experiment for us," Desai said. "It's the first step, but our mission is global." 

Datuna added: "It is so important that we celebrate the voices of change and use our platform to shout from the rooftops when people are committed to real change."

Editor's note: This article has been updated.

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