Go Bananas for Equal Exchange
The other day I popped into Stop and Shop on my way home from work to pick up some essentials. When I headed to the fruit section I saw something I hadn’t seen in the past: The option of regular bananas (Chiquita, Dole) or Equal Exchange Organic bananas. I had seen the Equal Exchange (EE) stamp on coffee, tea and chocolate before, but never bananas. So after picking up a bunch, I headed home to do some research. Low and behold Stop and Shop is a grocer that has newly introduced EE bananas to their bunch! This is exciting news.
Recently I’ve started to pay more attention to where my food is coming from. That’s not to say I require all of my food to be local or even organic, but I like to know a bit more about it’s origin. My interest in this was heightened even more when I was on the POM Blogger Harvest Tour. As we drove by eggplant, artichoke, and garlic farms, and saw cotton bushes (I had never seen cotton growing before!) and orange trees, I realized that while I try to purchase mainly whole foods, I still don’t think about all of the work that went into growing those foods. When we were at the POM plant and watched farmers drive truckloads of pomegranates to the plant that they picked that morning, I was struck by how much work goes into just one bottle of juice and that someone actually hand picked every single piece of fruit. Sure this is obvious info but how often do you actually stop and think about it?
That’s exactly what I did when I got my Equal Exchange bananas. Equal Exchange partners with co-operatives of farmers who provide high quality, organic coffee, chocolate, teas and snacks from all over the world. This system supports small farmer co-ops and uses sustainable farming practices. All along I knew that paying a higher price for these goods meant a little extra cash was going to the farmers who were supplying it, but I didn’t think much further than that.
While peeling through some EE banana websites (Ha! Get it? Oh banana humor), I learned that banana farmers are treated unfairly and have horrible working conditions. Typically, bananas are grown on large plantations where workers earn low wages and experience poor living and working conditions. This production system pushes the price of bananas down to a point at which small farmers cannot compete. In addition, heavy chemical use causes health problems in communities surrounding the plantations. Many of us may think about how organic eating can benefit us without thinking about how those same chemicals can significantly harm the health of the growers.
Equal Exchange only works with small farmers that have formed democratic co-operatives in order to reach the global market. The farmers own their land and have control of their business. The EE bananas are organically grown – so no harmful chemicals are used and the farmers are working in healthier, cleaner environments. By buying Equal Exchange bananas, you are using your purchasing power to make the world a better place. Yes they carry a higher price tag than say Dole regular bananas, but the mark up money is well spent. Last year approximately 1.8 million dollars went from EE bananas to the banana farmers in Ecuador to be used for things like schools and health centers.
This really struck a chord with me as a food Blogger and dietitian. I write and work to help improve the health of others, which of course includes encouraging nutritious foods, such as bananas. Bananas are one of the most commonly consumed fruits. Many families buy bunches each week and kids tend to favor them over all fruits. But by making a choice in our food system with a fruit we already eat and enjoy, and choosing EE products, we can not only improve our own health, but also the health and wellbeing of its farmers. It feels empowering to know that the foods we choose to buy can have a positive influence on others’ lives.
Please join me in supporting these hard working farmers and choose Equal Exchange. If you live in Massachusetts, check to see if your local Stop and Shop has the EE bananas and if not, encourage the store to carry them!
Check out some of these great resources for more information:
A blog about one woman’s experience in Ecuador learning about Fair Trade
A fellow Registered Dietitian I know works at Equal Exchange, and I was able to get a lot of inside scoop about EE from her. She has a fun prize for a Dine Dish Delish reader but you have to click on my reviews site (Dine Dish Delish Reviews) to find out what you need to do to win (and what the prize is)!
Disclaimer: I am not being paid by Equal Exchange to promote their banans. I just support their fantastic cause!