This week marks two big “firsts” for Equifruit: the introduction of Fairtrade bananas into Canada, and the sale of these bananas to an institutional customer. Concordia University became Canada’s 17th Fairtrade Campus back in August 2016 with commitments on Fairtrade coffee, tea and chocolate across campus – but through its campus food service provider, Aramark, Concordia has upped its commitment to ethical purchasing and earned the title of “First Campus in Canada to go Fairtrade on Bananas”. Aramark’s National Manager of Sustainability Michael Yarymowich was on hand for the festivities at Concordia this week so we asked him…
1. How many campus food services does Aramark manage in Canada? What are your customers looking for when they say “sustainability”?
The level of awareness surrounding food systems and responsible sourcing has never been higher on Canadian campuses. There are many areas of focus including fair trade, local food procurement, the health of the oceans and physical environment, waste management, animal welfare and more.
Along with the increasing demand for a wide variety of products there is a growing desire to ensure that none of the participants in what has become a truly global marketplace for food find themselves marginalized, making the concept of Fair Trade one of the fastest growing consumer sustainability movements we encounter.
Fairtrade Canada and distribution partners such as Equifruit are helping us find a solution to this demand by encouraging improvements at every level of the supply chain, giving us the tools to make positive change and an effective communication platform to educate an even greater segment of the population.
2. What does the Fairtrade Campus designation mean to Aramark?
For many, going to university means making some important life decisions for the first time, including choosing which foods to purchase. With this new responsibility students come to realize very quickly that there are more factors to be considered than just what they may be hungry for at the moment – factors such as global economy and social impact. The Fairtrade mark can be a very useful tool to help navigate these other factors, and Aramark is proud to align with its message as a way of enabling a new generation of citizens to make better choices and bring about positive change. It is an important component of our daily mission to enrich and nourish lives in every community in which we do business.
3. Why bananas? Are there other food categories you’re looking to convert to Fairtrade?
As one of the more popular fruits on campus, bananas make sense as a starting point so that we can maximize the positive impact of this new purchasing practice. As awareness continues to grow and demand for a greater number of Fairtrade certified options with it, we expect to make more options available.
Bananas also have a certain symbolic value – like coffee, tea and cocoa, they are easily recognized by many people as something grown in less economically advantaged regions – and as nature’s ultimate hand-held snack they serve as a great vehicle to help spread the word!
4. Concordia has only just been designated – and has already reached a leadership position among Fairtrade campuses. Do you hear buzz elsewhere in your network?
There is a lot of passion out there for this cause and I think it’s safe to say that when an institution takes a courageous step forward such as this, others pay attention. I would encourage any campus to follow Concordia’s lead and I fully expect that this is exactly what will happen in the near future.
5. We see you got into the spirit of things at Concordia so… fess up: was “banana selfie” on your bucket list? Any plans to borrow Equifruit’s banana costumes in the future?
It may sound silly, but I consider it an honour to be asked to wear the Banana Suit – to me it represents an association with a very worthy cause! And as more of our campus partners achieve their Fairtrade Campus designations, I expect to see many more opportunities to steal the peel for a selfie in some of those new locations! Banana Tour 2017 anyone?