Welcome to Ask NBN, our new podcast! Every week, we're answering random questions about life at Northwestern.
In this episode, we're talking about bananas. Walk into any dining hall on campus, and it’s the one food you’re guaranteed to find on any given day. So how many bananas do Northwestern students eat in a given year?
According to Northwestern dining, we go through an average of 84,000 pounds per year. Bananas are a quick, easy snack, and it’s not just college students who love them. They’re the most popular fresh fruit consumed in the United States. And if you’ve ever bought a banana at a grocery store, you may have noticed that the fruit is also dirt cheap.
For Leah Varjacques and Katherine Nagasawa, who graduated from Medill last year, the abundance of dirt cheap bananas in supermarkets was a bit unsettling. While they were both undergrads, Varjacques and Nagasawa went to Ecuador and created a web documentary, Beyond the Seal, about the banana industry in Ecuador.
While in Ecuador, Varjacques and Nagasawa saw workers being treated like slaves, and many of them suffered from the harmful use of pesticides and other chemicals.
The documentary also focuses on the fight for fair trade bananas, usually produced by small scale farmers instead of large, corporate plantations. But fair trade farmers face many obstacles – historical and political – in getting their products to the American market.
At Northwestern, Weinberg junior Anne Debertin is working with Fair Trade Northwestern to bring more ethical sourcing to campus. The fight for fair trade is about thinking about where your groceries come from and how they affect farmers and producers halfway across the world, she says.
The Buffett Institute will be screening Beyond the Seal on April 19th at Northwestern, and Varjacques and Nagasawa will participate in a panel discussion following the screening.