Students lament lack of vegetable choice at DDS

by Kevin Garland | 11/15/04 6:00am

Dartmouth Dining Services and student veggie-lovers have encountered a not-so-minor vegetable crisis as tomato and green bell pepper prices have skyrocketed in the past few weeks, according to the College food supplier.

"I knew about it on CNN about three weeks ago," said a senior DDS official who requested to remain anonymous because of proximity to the issue. He believed the large rise in prices was due to hurricanes in Florida and fires in California, both of which affected tomato and green bell pepper shortages.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, tomatoes cost an average of $1.20 per pound in late October. However, as recently as late July, tomatoes only brought in $0.20 per pound.

DDS officials said their supplier is charging as much as $3 or $4 per pound of tomatoes.

The campus food service reacted promptly to this shortage by rationing tomato use and posting explicit signs about the price increase of both peppers and tomatoes. DDS presently provides tomatoes to students on a request-only basis.

"Right now we're rationing them out. We do offer them, but on an ask-for only basis," the DDS official said.

Student reaction has been mixed, with some perturbed by the loss of options at College eateries.

"It's whack. Sandwiches without tomatoes aren't sandwiches at all," said Daniel Hassouni '05. "What the hell kind of salad doesn't have tomatoes?"

Hassouni, getting dinner in Homeplate Sunday evening, was not concerned about DDS exploiting students, but said he was confused why the food service was unable to compensate for a rise in prices.

"Every fruit and vegetable price fluctuates, they should be able to absorb the price change," Hassouni said.

Another student didn't mind but was also surprised that a rise in price had such a strong effect on DDS.

"I don't mind because I usually have to ask them [for tomatoes] anyway when I get a wrap," Helen Gurina '08 said. She said the missing bell peppers didn't affect her because she never orders them.

"I was a bit surprised how they mentioned it had tripled in price. I didn't realize it was so sensitive to the price in the market, because I thought the difference was covered by higher prices [of food in general] at Dartmouth," Gurina said.

Furthermore, the price increase for green bell peppers has been so extreme that DDS can no longer afford to provide them at all. According the DDS official, green bell peppers are used frequently, and the decision to remove them was difficult.

"Bell peppers price skyrocketed more [than tomatoes], so we can't offer them. We used them all the time, so we have to revamp our recipes," he said.

For now, DDS says future price increases and vegetable offerings are questionable. Crop prices and production change frequently, and DDS can't plan too far into the future.

The anonymous DDS official underscored this uncertainty.

"We have to take it week by week."