By Eliot Schiaparelli
Fordham students can now enjoy a new dining option: açaí bowls. Located in the basement of McGinley Center at Dagger John’s, Sambazon offers an açaí base with dozens of topping options.
According Sambazon’s marketing materials, açaí (pronounced “ah-sah-EE”) is “a thick blended smoothie made with a powerful berry from the Amazon.” They also claim that the fruit is thought to be a superfood, packed with powerful antioxidants.
“All fruits are relatively high in natural sugar (fructose), so considering the açaí bowl – there will be naturally-occurring sugar in the açaí base as well as in the fruit toppings,” said Melanie Simeone, Fordham’s registered dietician.
“While it is important to monitor sugar intake, we should primarily be concerned with added sugar,” she said. “Added sugar is sugar that is added to a food product. So when building your bowl, consider the toppings you are adding to your bowl. Items like granola, honey, agave and coconut will contain added sugar. So opt for toppings that do not contain added sugar such as fruit, cacao nibs, chia and hemp seeds.”
Rosalind Shaw works in Dagger John’s, and she explained the process of making the bowls at Fordham. The açaí base is made from a purplish fruit, roughly the size of a grape that is mashed and frozen. The açaí base comes in a premade tub, so Rosalind and the other dining service team members simply have to put it in a bowl and add toppings.
She said she is excited the new dining option has come to campus.
“It’s a simple process,” she said. “We have a paper order form, so once [customers] fill it out and… give it to us, we have one or two people and they move at a fast pace.”
Students can either create their own bowl by choosing from a list of toppings, or opt for the Mighty Ram Bowl that includes banana, strawberry, pineapple, chia seeds, kiwi, granola and honey.
A small, 12 ounce (five gram) Mighty Ram costs $8.99 , while a larger 16 ounce (eight gram) version will set you back $10.99. If you want to create your own bowl, the base costs $4.99 for a 12 ounce and $6.99 for a 16 ounce, while toppings range from 99 cents to $1.49.
Fordham, along with most of the western world, sources their açaí through Sambazon, which claims to practice “next level sustainability.”
According to an article in The New York Times Magazine, Sambazon makes good on its commitment to help the farmers of Brazil.
The article, titled “The Superfood Gold Rush” by Jamie Lauren Keiles, said Sambazon has cornered the açaí export market by paying a guaranteed minimum price to harvesters in order to protect wages from dipping too low.
Fair Trade practices are not just marketing buzzwords for the company. Keiles further reports that, according to a sustainability study, workers along Sambazon’s vertical supply chain can earn up to three times what the average Brazilian takes home.
Sambazon even reinvests back into the local Brazilian communities where it sources it fruit, building schools, doctor’s offices and water filtration systems, according to its website.
Here at Fordham, however, Sambazon replaced Jamba Juice, an establishment that some students are disappointed to see go.
“I liked the variety of smoothies and the different options,” said Paige Kowal, FCRH ’21. “Now, I haven’t even been to the açaí bowl place.”
Deming Yaun, Fordham’s University dining contract liaison, said bringing brands such as Starbucks, Jamba Juice (at Rose Hill), Freshens (at Lincoln Center) and now Sambazon is a process that involves students, specifically those on the United Student Government (USG) Food Committee. After a tasting, the students on the committee were in favor of bringing Sambazon to campus.
“The health factor was a big positive with the Food Committee,” Yaun said
He said his biggest concern was that the açaí base comes in only one flavor, but both the company and members of the dining committee convinced him the toppings would provide enough variety.
Students are also unhappy about the price of the bowls, which can only be purchased with cash or DCB, not a meal swipe.
“They are expensive wherever they are,” Yaun said. “The research out on the açaí berry is so positive it’s creating demand, and when demand is created the price is going to go up. They are also committed to Fair Trade, living wage and things like that.”
As for using meal swipes for açaí bowls, that’s probably not going to happen.
“We knew from day one that the Sambazon product does not fit the business model for exchange,” Yaun said.
Some students also seemed confused over whether to eat an açaí bowl as a meal, snack or dessert. Simeone said that the bowls can be eaten at any time throughout the day.
“From a calorie perspective, most bowls can be considered as a meal; however, our daily caloric needs vary from person to person.” she said. “For some individuals, a bowl may be a great post-workout snack.”
Despite the price, many students have responded positively to the new option. Cathrine Mercanti, GSB ’19, said she grabbed her first açaí bowl after working out. She said she was pleasantly surprised by the bowls.
“I would treat them as a meal; it’s almost like having a smoothie for a meal,” she said.
Grant Hasings, GSB ’21, said he goes whenever he can.
“It’s a great addition to Fordham Dining,” he said. “It’s a little expensive, but definitely worth it to have fresh fruit and a good meal.”
Yaun said a hot food counter and possible renovation might be in the future for Urban Kitchen. He also said promotions at Starbucks and Sambazon could be offered to drive sales in advance of the holidays.