Tomato slices slashed from campus dining menu in winter
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.”