Dining Service began offering fair trade bananas in both Moulton Union and Thorne Hall this September, following last year’s campaign by Bowdoin Advocates for Human Rights (BAHR). Two cases of ripe fair trade bananas are now delivered to each dining hall every Friday, accounting for approximately 20 percent of the volume of bananas Bowdoin consumes.  

According to Associate Director and Executive Chef of Dining Service Ken Cardone, Bowdoin purchases about 728 cases of all bananas per year, each with around 120 bananas, for a total of about 87,360 bananas.  

Last year, BAHR led a campaign to educate the student body about ethical consumerism and to decrease College banana consumption to enable Dining Service to switch to fair trade bananas.  BAHR handed out posters and fact sheets about the banana industry and attempted to garner student pledges to eat fewer bananas.  

For nearly a century, several banana companies have been accused of massacring and threatening workers, supporting terrorist groups, underpaying their laborers, exposing workers to harmful pesticides, destroying the environment and committing various human rights abuses in countries such as Colombia, Ecuador and the Philippines. Bowdoin has sourced its bananas from both Chiquita Brand International Inc. and Dole Food Co, two companies that have been blamed for these abuses.  

Despite the progress made, Dining Service still faces two major issues: price and the lack of a ripening facility.  

“In order for Bowdoin to be able to [fully] buy fair trade they needed to decrease the amount of bananas everyone eats,” said Katherine Kirk ’18, leader of BAHR.  

Fair trade bananas cost about 30 percent more than standard bananas. However, Cardone hopes that future price decreases will allow Bowdoin to offer more fair trade bananas.

“Retail markets impact availability. I noticed an increased volume of [fair trade] bananas in both local grocery stores. Hopefully it will continue to increase and that helps lower cost and increase availability,” Cardone wrote in an email to the Orient.  

Dining Service also faces the lack of a ripening facility. According to Cardone, Bowdoin does not have the space to ripen the quantity of bananas the College purchases.  Large fair trade ripening facilities are several hours away. Kirk hopes that Bowdoin might be able to form a coalition ripening facility, possibly with other institutions like Colby and Bates.  

Last year, the College began offering a selection of fair trade bananas in the C-Store, although the initiative struggled due to ripening issues and the irregularity of shipments.  

While Kirk was excited that Dining Service is beginning to offer fair trade bananas, she expressed interest in the College increasing its fair trade purchases. She called Dining Service’s decision a “big first step,” and believes that the College can make the total switch to fair trade bananas, particularly as Bowdoin completely shifted to fair trade coffee two years ago.  

One of the fair trade vendors Bowdoin purchases from is Equal Exchange, which was founded in part by a Bowdoin alumnus.  

“It’s kind of cool that we’re supporting a Bowdoin grad when we buy fair trade,” Kirk said.  

Kirk said BAHR plans to continue to focus on promoting ethical consumerism in the future. She believes that students do not always think about the consequences of buying non fair trade bananas because of their isolation from the industry and its abuses—an issue BAHR hopes to address.

“We’re trying to focus on that more this year—focusing on where did this come from and realizing that we live in a really global world and what consequences that has and that you don’t really know what moral decisions you’re making when you buy something,” Kirk said.