Frigid temperatures in Florida have killed almost 70 percent of its tomato and other vegetable crops, making prices too high for St. Thomas’ food services to purchase.
“The tomatoes we can buy are of poor quality, spotted, spoil easy, green and hard to ripen,” said Todd Empanger, director of dining services.
Although St. Thomas does not get all of its fresh tomatoes from Florida, Mexico has also been unusually rainy and cool. This weather makes it hard for tomatoes to grow.
With this shortage, many of the offered prices are simply unreasonable to pay for fresh tomatoes.
“We normally pay $12 to $15 per case, and we are now paying over $45,” Empanger said.
This price increase is why students may have noticed signs in Scooters, which state that foods will lack fresh tomatoes until the price drops.
Senior Leslie Schultze, who works at Scooters, said she has noticed that some students still forget that fresh tomatoes will not be offered.
“A lot of people ask for them, so we have to tell them that they aren’t available,” Schultze said. “No one has gotten mad about it. I think they just forget.”
Also, this shortage has not slowed down most of the orders students place, except for one.
“If they order a BLT, sometimes we have to remind them that it won’t have tomatoes,” Schultze said. “Sometimes they change their order because it defeats the purpose.”
Freshman Anna Twinem, who said she loves tomatoes and makes sure to eat at least one a day, has noticed the decrease in quality and quantity.
“I knew the crops were bad,” Twinem said. “I’ve seen a decrease in quality because they’re little now. I don’t like them as much.”
While most tomatoes are missing on North Campus, the Binz Refectory sandwich line on South Campus has healthy-looking tomatoes, said Mary Duffy, who’s better known as “the sandwich lady.”
“I have plenty of tomatoes,” Duffy said. “But they’re little Roma tomatoes.”
As for the rest of dining services, Empanger said they’re on a “day-by-day decision” for when fresh tomatoes will return to the majority of campus menus.
Shane Kitzman contributed to this report.
Meg Tvrdik can be reached at email@example.com.