As tomatoes return, bananas depart

| Assignment Editor

Dining Services switched to buying only Fair Trade bananas in March 2009, but after spring break they disappeared due to supply problems. (Evan Wiskup | Student Life)

Across campus, students can be heard rejoicing the imminent and long-awaited return of tomatoes to campus. Now these same students have a new food item to miss: bananas.

Students began to notice the absence of this fruit staple after spring break. After a switchover last year, Dining Services has offered students only Fair Trade bananas, but as of late has run into problems with the vendor. According to Nadeem Siddiqui, resident district manager of Bon Appétit, the University’s source of Fair Trade bananas has recently dried out. Dining Services is investigating alternative sources of these bananas, but while this investigation is underway there are no bananas on campus.

The Fair Trade label seeks to signify that the farmers who are involved with harvesting of the bananas are receiving fair compensation for their work.

Not all students believe that this Fair Trade label justifies the absence of bananas on campus.

“I would just rather have bananas. I think Fair Trade is a good system, but it is not always beneficial,” sophomore Corissa Santos said.

This sentiment is common on campus, particularly among students who view bananas as a key component of their everyday diet.

“I love bananas,” sophomore Olivia Cook said. “I wish they would bring bananas back to campus one way or another.”

Some students are unhappy with the current selection and condition of fruit on campus.

“I am a little upset,” sophomore Eric Salzberg said. “I have found most of the fruit on this campus pretty disappointing. Generally you can find a ripe banana, so I eat them often and I really like them.”

According to Siddiqui, Dining Services will consider bringing non-Fair Trade bananas to campus if the school cannot find a new source of Fair Trade ones.

In the meantime, students are brainstorming other ways to obtain bananas.

“If I really want, I could start going to Whole Foods or Schnucks, which I actually may start doing because I am really upset right now,” Salzberg said.

Not all students are affected by this new development.

“I think it is OK because I don’t eat bananas, but I do know a lot of people who eat them, so it would be better to have bananas on campus,” junior Ashley Sham said.

Students are also concerned about the health implications of the removal of bananas from their diets.

“I know some people with potassium deficiencies who eat bananas every day,” senior Nick Chang said. “By not having them on campus, it causes inconvenience, especially for freshmen who do not have cars on campus.”

The resolution of this situation remains to be seen. There are currently three options.

The first of these options is that Dining Services will find another provider and return to selling Fair Trade bananas in the near future.

The second possible outcome is that Dining Services will have difficulty finding a new vendor and will indefinitely suspend banana sales on campus.

The last possible outcome is that Dining Services will have difficulty finding a new vendor and will decide to sell regular bananas as an alternative.

Despite the moral backings of the Fair Trade issue, some students are hoping for bananas to make a quick return to campus.

“I am a big fan of my biggest source of potassium, so I would really like to see this resolved,” Salzberg said.

  • Jason

    Complaints about food limitations seem to be a subset of a larger problem.

    The problem isn’t how large the profit is, but restrictions on our freedom. You cannot deny all the food sold by Bon Appetit on campus is much more expensive than usual. Moreover, we’re basically forced to eat on campus (required minimum meal plan without exception; I for one have needed to go out of my way to spend points in order to not be “over”). The lack of choice and the obscurity of where the excess monies go is irritating for many students (complaints about uber-profits). Bon Appetit can definitely do better to alleviate this problem by being transparent and having an active campaign informing us of how our extra dollars are being spent.

    Jess, I disagree with “If you choose to go to a fancy restaurant, you shouldn’t complain that the food is overpriced. And if you choose to go to a fancy private university with quality food produced very conscientiously, you shouldn’t complain either.”
    Complaints are not only understandable, but valid. After all, when I first came to this “fancy private university”, I decided to come here NOT because of the quality food (as you would base such decisions upon going to a restaurant), it was for the warm atmosphere, the awesome people, and the outstanding academic program. I complain because I don’t see why I have to pay up to 3 times more for a similar product in our local St. Louis community. Again, if I know why, I can perhaps accept it as an irritating, but necessary sacrifice.

    Anonymous was a bit too callous: nobody deserves harsh treatment. At the same time, though, illegal immigration irritates me to no end. There are many people who wait a long time to get their Green card approved! These people just traipse in and live here! It’s just innately unfair! Moreover, part of the problems with illegal immigrants stem from the fact they’re paid too little which stem from the fact they’re illegal! (I know it’s circular)…then there’s the insurance and medical problems associated with illegal immigrants and… it quickly becomes a headache. It’s a thorny problem since there’s fair and then there’s humane: finding a middle line with opponents polarized on both sides is refereeing an old-school baseball game.

    Don’t forget that there are many facets of morality; there’s more than just being humane. There’s being fair.

  • Jess

    “Anonymous”, please get your facts straight. First of all, many students like to rant against Dining Services for overcharging and making a huge profit without actually knowing Dining Service’s profit. I spoke with Regional Manager Nadeem Siddiqui and he indicated that they don’t actually make huge profits. The food is obviously expensive, but that’s because it’s often ethically produced, organic, quality, gourmet, and sold in small quantities. Additionally, Bon Appetite employees are given full benefits, including paid leave, vacation, health insurance, and pension plans – the same package as the managers get. That costs more for the consumer, but it’s the right thing to do and I’m happy if that’s what my money’s going to. If you choose to go to a fancy restaurant, you shouldn’t complain that the food is overpriced. And if you choose to go to a fancy private university with quality food produced very conscientiously, you shouldn’t complain either.

    WU Dining Services works very hard to incorporate student requests. The suggestions you drop in the suggestion box sometimes get passed all the way up the ranks to the national manager and back down and are taken very seriously.

    Also, how can the company NOT dictate your food choices? Do you expect a direct democracy where each student gets a vote on each decision that the company makes, small and large? The company must necessarily make choices that affect what you eat. But I assure you they’re very open to suggestions.

    More importantly, I strongly resent your uninformed and cold disregard for people suffering to produce the luxuries you consume. Workers on Florida tomato farms have suffered abuses such as physical violence (including beatings and whippings), threats to life, verbal abuse and arbitrary pay reductions on top of already-low wages. Slavery is a reality in extreme cases: there have been 8 cases of slavery involving over 1,000 tomato pickers, as documented by the federal government and resulting in federal prison sentences of various farm managers. That type of mistreatment does not deserve to be put in commas.

    Illegal immigrants are humans, and the abuses they have suffered violate their human rights. No one has the right to enslave or violently harass another person, regardless of their citizenship status.

    In the cases of slavery, the workers are forced to work without pay (one worker was regularly beaten and chained inside a box truck at night by a family of farm bosses who held him and a dozen other workers captive); therefore your claim that “they’re more than happy to just have work” does not apply.

    By the way, if you had to leave your country of origin in order to escape civil warfare and/or dire poverty and do arduous manual labor for 14 hours a day to feed yourself and your family, you might care a little less about the definition of legal citizenship status. Talk to me once you’ve tried that.

    Finally, many illegal immigrants do pay taxes.

    I encourage everyone to educate themselves on this issue before developing strong opinions. I hope everyone considers morality a necessary feature of their role as consumers, and empathy a necessary part of being human.

    More at: http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs049/1101616314459/archive/1102564694785.html

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think my food choices should be dictated by the same company that overcharges me for all my meal choices. Plus, the workers that are being “mistreated” by being underpaid are mostly illegal immigrants who don’t pay taxes and technically shouldn’t be here anyways. They’re more than happy to just have work. Doesn’t sound like mistreatment to me….

  • student

    How many of these decisions are made by WU Dining Services, and how many are made by Bon Appetit (a national company which serves many schools and other clients, see http://www.bamco.com/page/10/clients.htm)? Before we praise or condemn WU Dining Services, we ought to know whether or not they’re responsible for anyof these decisions.

  • D

    While I don’t have a personal problem with this per se, I do have a problem with bon apetit overcharging students and implementing bans willy nilly. Instead of riding their mighty high horse by making changes that affect consumers and not themselves as a company, maybe they should do more with the money they’re making off of us. I’m sure they donate extra food to charity, but I don’t see them using any of their profit in positive ways (and we all know they are making a huge profit).

  • Spencer

    who honestly cares about where we get our bananas from? i think all of the bans on campus are more or less pointless… the bottled water ban, dumb there are numerous other things we could do to help the environment besides banning bottled water… the coke truck still comes to campus to deliver pop and juice… should we ban those too? tomato ban… why? i like tomatoes on everything and as an highly active person i need their nutrients. and the alternatives they offered were a joke… now bananas? what am i supposed to do when i’m cramped up in the middle of campus and don’t have a potassium source to help me? i think the school should provide me with a life alert so i’m not abandoned in the middle of mudd field looking like rigor mortis setting in… this is the same reason we lost taco bell on campus… YES! we had taco bell on campus!!

  • Hanna Banana

    I was wondering where the bananas had disappeared to. But there are plenty of foods you can eat with potassium other than bananas. For example, sweet potatoes and plain yogurt both have more potassium than bananas. So now, the question is: Where can I find a good sweet potato or plain yogurt on campus? I guess the people with potassium deficiencies can start ordering extra sweet potato fries…

  • Chrys

    Really? Are we that spoiled and arrogant to think that our dietary preferences are more important than ensuring the well-being of farmers? Students at WashU, stop only thinking about yourselves and start thinking about the world outside of you. Isn’t that what higher education is supposed to encourage?