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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

FoodWire: Wash. U. Boycotts Tomatoes

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 2:00 PM

In solidarity with underpaid tomato-pickers, Bon Appétit, Washington University's dining service, will no longer be serving tomato slices or wedges on campus. Bon Appétit recently signed an agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a Florida tomato-pickers' union, that it would only buy tomatoes from growers who pay workers standard minimum wage.

So far, only Alderman Farms, a tomato farm in Boynton Beach, has agreed to maintain CIW standards. Unfortunately for Wash. U. tomato lovers, Alderman only produces grape tomatoes.

In Florida, where Bon Appétit gets most of its winter tomatoes, the average wage is 45 cents for every 32 pounds of tomatoes picked. In order to earn the equivalent of Florida's minimum wage for a ten-hour day, a worker would have to pick 2.5 tons.

"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," Jill Duncan, director of marketing and communications for Bon Appétit Management Company, told Student Life, Wash. U.'s student paper. "We are excited about it, and we hope that our students are as well."

Aramark, which handles dining for Wash. U.'s medical and law schools, has not signed the CIW agreement, but representatives from the university's Student Farmers Association have vowed to pressure Aramark to follow Bon Appétit's lead.

"People often don't think about where their foods come from or under what conditions they are produced," Marc Rodrigues, a Student Farmers Association organizer, told Student Life. "[What] Bon Appétit is doing is raising awareness of this issue and I think that's a huge step."

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