We believe real food and real jobs go hand in hand, and Bon Appétit Management Company at American University (AU) has an historic opportunity to chart a new course for sustainability on campus and beyond. That was the message over 120 cafeteria workers, students, faculty, and community members took to the Bon Appétit dining services management at AU yesterday afternoon.
After marching across campus and into the dining hall singing renditions of “Sustainability Forever,” the group met with Bon Appétit district manager Derek Nottingham and presented him with over 1600 signatures on the DC Real Food Real Jobs pledge. Worker, student, and faculty leaders then told their stories and explained their hopes for true sustainability at AU.
Christine Hamlett-Williams, who has worked as a cashier at AU for 35 years, told Nottingham, “I love my job, and I love my coworkers. Sometimes I walk through the kitchen, and I see the cooks and how hard they’re working to get the fresh quality food out to the students. But we need respect, we need the time to do our jobs better.” Anthony Randolph, who recently testified about his experience of food insecurity, called for training on scratch cooking and sustainable food preparation, “I want the training to be able to do what you know I can achieve.”
Two Bon Appétit workers from across the country joined American University workers in solidarity: Prince Jones from LaVerne University and Raquel Baptiste from Wesleyan University. Jones is currently leading his coworkers at LaVerne in forming a union, and told workers at American University: “So remember my friends, brothers, and sisters. When they look us in the face and ask why we fight? We fight because we too believe in a better and sustainable future.” Bapiste has long been a champion of real food and workplace justice at Wesleyan, and was there to show that Bon Appétit workers around the country support the DC campaign.
Leaders from DC’s real food movement also participated in the delegation. Aja Taylor of Bread for the City, which provides medical and social services and emergency food assistance for low-income DC residents, presented Nottingham with a letter from George Jones, executive director of Bread for the City. Taylor said, “We appreciate all that Bon Appétit does to support sustainable food and fair conditions for farmworkers, but on behalf of our executive director George Jones, we ask that you put that same effort into caring for your own employees.” Jones’ letter declared his support for the vision of Real Food Real Jobs and urged Bon Appétit to act as a leader in promoting true sustainability in university communities. Jones wrote:
“A large coalition of Washington, D.C. food and farming organizations have signed the Real Food Real Jobs Pledge and stand with me in calling for true sustainability at our city’s universities and in our communities. These food movement leaders include representatives from Jews United for Justice, Restaurant Opportunities Center United, Healthy Affordable Food for All, Common Good City Farm, Brickyard Educational Farm, and Washington Youth Garden…
We are convinced that the creation of a just food system requires the participation of those who create and serve the food…Your company has the opportunity to make changes not only in those places where Bon Appétit provides the food, but also on a far greater scale, enhancing your position as a leader in social responsibility.”
As the new year approaches, American University workers – along with their student, faculty, and food movement allies – will continue working to add their voices to the creation of a sustainable future on campus and across the city.