Bon Appétit Management Company, a socially responsible food service provider operating on 400 university campuses and in corporate cafés throughout 29 states, has forged a new agreement that frames acceptable working conditions and enforces those conditions with a strict code of conduct. Appalled by what federal prosecutors describe as slavery, one of the largest food service companies in the country has promised to boycott Florida tomatoes unless conditions improve. Bon Appétit’s chief executive called on growers to “do the right thing and our five million pounds of business can go to them. Or they can let the tomatoes rot in the fields.” The new frontier in sustainable food is social justice and pressure from labor organizations is part of that new wave, but defending ‘green’ credentials is at the heart of it.

Under Bon Appétit’s agreement, which goes beyond the Coalition of Immokalee Workers agreements with other food industry companies, tomatoes will cease to be an undifferentiated commodity crop and growers who treat their workers more fairly will be rewarded with more business. Additionally, Bon Appétit is sending a strong message to growers that the company is prepared to cease buying tomatoes altogether if the growers don’t follow the code of conduct adopted by the company.

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This agreement became a necessity after Bon Appétit, a division of the Compass Group, received a letter from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers which explained that their winter tomato supply was being provided by South Florida farmworkers who currently pick in modern day slavery conditions. The agreement includes: a ‘minimum fair wage’ that will reflect the working conditions of the South Florida fields, a requirement that growers implement time clocks, worker empowerment that will inform workers of their rights, a worker controlled health and safety committee, and third party monitoring of growers.

Bon Appétit’s agreement is the first step towards better worker rights and conditions for those providing campuses across the country with tomatoes, year round. Bon Appétit and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers hope that this mutual agreement will act as an example for other on-campus food service providers including Compass, Aramark and Sodexho.  Check out the Coalition’s Dine with Dignity campaign, which is working with college students across the country to apply pressure to this companies for more information about how.

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