Tomato slices slashed from campus dining menu in winter

| Editor in Chief

BLTs at Wash. U. have just dropped the T.

Effective this past Monday, Bon Appétit—the subcontractor that provides catering for Dining Services—no longer serves tomato slices or wedges on campus.

This decision stems from an agreement that Bon Appétit Management Company signed with The Coalition of Immokalee Works (CIW), an organization that represents thousands of workers who pick tomatoes in Florida.

In an effort to improve the workers’ wages and working conditions, the agreement establishes a code of conduct for tomato growers in Florida that calls for higher safety standards and requires workers to be paid a fair minimum wage.

The agreement also requires that an independent monitor enforce the code.

Bon Appétit will serve tomatoes only from growers that agree to abide by the specifications of the agreement.

Alderman Farms, a commercial tomato grower in Boynton Beach, Fla., was the first company to sign on and agree to the standards outlined by the agreement.

Since the company grows primarily grape tomatoes, Wash. U. will not be serving tomatoes of other varieties.

“We are doing this for justice of the farm workers, and we believe that our students will be very supportive, because that’s the nature of the students here at Washington University,” said Jill Duncan, director of marketing and communications for Bon Appétit Management Company. “We are excited about it, and we hope that our students are as well.”

The current average wage for tomato farm workers is about 45 cents for every 32 pounds of tomatoes picked, according to Marc Rodrigues, an organizer for the Student Farmers Association.

In order to earn a Florida minimum wage for a 10-hour day, a farm worker would have to pick 2.5 tons of tomatoes.

Rodrigues said that Bon Appétit’s decision to terminate its relationship with farms with sub-par working conditions is a significant move.
The Bon Appétit Management Company has more than 400 venue locations in 29 states.

“People often don’t think about where their foods come from or under what conditions they are produced,” Rodrigues said. “[What] Bon Appétit is doing is raising awareness of this issue and I think that’s a huge step.”

Rodrigues said that the Student Farmers Association, which works closely with the CIW, is trying to get other campus food providers to sign the agreement.

Aramark—the food provider for the medical and law schools—has not signed the agreement.

“We are going to put pressure on Aramark and make sure they do the right thing, ” Rodrigues said.

This decision is coming to the forefront now because Bon Appétit purchases tomatoes from Florida during the winter season.

The company purchases tomatoes locally when possible, according to Duncan.

Junior Jessica Goldkind, co-president of Students for Fair Trade, said that she believes students will react positively to the change since they will still be able to get tomato sauces and grape tomatoes.

“I personally really support this decision that Bon Appétit has made,” Goldkind said. “We are always pleased that we don’t have to do a lot of protesting and work to get Bon Appétit to make the right decisions.”

  • Russell

    “It is not Bon Appetit’s place to make decisions like this. It is simply their job to provide us with food.”

    ^ I really disagree with this. They’re tomatoes… I love tomatoes and all, but nobody is going to be collapsing from nutritional imbalance without them. If Bon Appetit could lower their prices by stocking the menus with imported, cheapest-thing-available foods (which would mean supporting a lot of companies with deplorable employment practices), would we consider it Bon Appetit’s job to do so?

    If people feel that they’re being gipped out of their boarding money, maybe Bon Appetit should be required to get the approval of the WU Administration. But had we imposed that extra requirement, it’s entirely likely that the request would have been approved, and we’d be without tomatoes anyway.

    It’s not like this is a new thing for Bon Appetit, either… They’re totally forward about how they choose their food sources, what they’re doing now fits completely into that same philosophy. I’d like to think that we as students should support that.

  • local food lover

    really, no one in missouri should be eating tomatoes in the winter anyhow.

    tomatoes are a summer crop in this part of the country, and once the warm months roll around wash u and their counterparts should be buying tomatoes from local sources.

    winter tomatoes are not good at all.

    eat seasonally – it’s better for you.

  • gross

    Good. Tomatoes are gross, and now we won’t have to specifically ask to have them withheld.

  • Wake up!

    Bon Appetite does not charge extra if you get tomatoes on your burger or salad. We pay for meal plans up front and receive no refund because tomatoes are not offered. This is simply a way for Bon Appetite to cut cost while keeping revenue constant. This has nothing to do with being “green” or socially responsible. Tomatoes are expensive! Come on people, stop being so naive.

  • James

    Might I suggest hitting up a local market (farmer’s or otherwise) and purchasing your own tomatoes? Then bring them to the cafeteria? Or have mama/papa $’bags spring for a delicious BLT from Crown Candy or Blues City Deli instead? And stay away from the ketchup, it’s mostly sugar anyway.

  • Jean h

    ok you people; get it straight. finally the dining takes a stand rather then just talk like most do and we blame them; how in appropriate. Get your tomato from ketchup you smart people but maybe you might not be. No one said that Wash u has all smart people.

  • Thomas

    I would support this if Bon Appetit wasnt a bunch of bandits themselves. They charge outrageous prices and dont really pay their workers fairly. Where does this company get off trying to own the moral high ground… they are just as bad as the Tomato company!

  • PA

    First off, I’m a huge tomato fan. I eat some form of tomatoes at least once a day.

    If Bon Appetit didn’t have such a food monopoly on campus, I would not have a problem with this.

    However, we don’t really have a choice in the matter at all.
    For those of us who live on campus, we pay an outrageous amount for a meal plan. I’m on the smallest plan for upperclassmen and still have 50 extra meal points (so going off campus is a huge waste of money).

    It is not Bon Appetit’s place to make decisions like this. It is simply their job to provide us with food.

    Guess I’ll be boycotting in the only way I really can – eating at Subway a lot more.

  • disappointed

    Some of these comments are disappointing to hear…

    I am 100% supportive of Bon Appetit/WashU’s decision. It is the responsibility of the owners of large companies to support the rights of workers, theirs AND those employed within their partnerships. To comment on the words of another reader; “there are plenty of other year-round tomato farms in other states like New Jersey”… the reason they are able to grow year-round is because they grow “hot house” tomatoes. Think about it. How else could a state like New Jersey grow tomatoes in the snow? It’s done in green houses with the aid of pesticides. I, personally, would rather be eating naturally-grown food. It feels good to know that I get that at WashU.

    I am happy to say “good bye” to my tomatoes for a season… and I LOVE tomatoes! But we must look at the bigger picture. Not only is this movement going to aid in the rights of workers, but it supports the “local” movement. Besides, transporting produce when it is not in-season only creates a larger carbon footprint.

    I say, if tomatoes are NOT in season and local, then we shouldn’t be eating them.

    And honestly, it’s not the end of the world. It think we’ll pull through.

  • Matt

    This is a fantastic move by Bon Appetit, fueled by the activism of civically engaged and aware students on campus. Glad to see the Wash U community is standing for ethical business.

  • Chester A. Riley

    Unfortunately, the law of unintended consequences could come into play. Namely, a tomato embargo decreases demand which could eliminate jobs. Increased prices could also decrease demand. Did anyone bother to ask the tomato pickers if they were unhappy with their pay? They are working in the US because jobs do not abound at home.

  • pissed

    For once I’m actually agreeing with caleb.

    The reason Bon Appetit is here is not to serve people who are voluntarily working half way across the country. They are here to provide us with food.We have no other choice of food provider on campus.

    This is 100% unacceptable. I love our dining services, but there is no way that I can support this.

    Give me my damn tomatoes.

  • Individual Rights

    While improving the working conditions of workers in Florida is perfectly acceptable on a personal level, it should not be done at the expense of students. Bon Appetite has a monopoly over the food, and in part health, of the student body, and should be much more considerate of the students.

    If they wish not to use Florida farms, they can chose to change their supplier until their current one becomes eligible again. There are plenty of year-round tomato farms in New Jersey and other states, and Bon Appetite should be required to seek these alternatives before changing their menus. The only other option they have is to lower their prices on meals that contain these products to reflect the change in ingredients.

    For the time that Bon Appetite refuses to provide tomatoes, I will personally refuse to purchase their products. Unfortunately, a large portion of the population here cannot do the same.

  • http://www.calebposner.com Caleb Posner

    Yes, how exciting that a company employed to serve our community has decided to place greater emphasis on the alleged interests of individuals voluntarily working elsewhere over that of those who are forced to purchase their services.

  • KS

    It is refreshing to see a company being socially responsible, I feel like all I ever hear about on the news is how they are not!

  • http://www.jeromebauer.com Jerome Bauer

    “I personally really support this decision that Bon Appétit has made,” Goldkind said. “We are always pleased that we don’t have to do a lot of protesting and work to get Bon Appétit to make the right decisions.”

    Amen to that.