At the Massachusetts Institution of Technology (MIT), college students are absolutely bananas over a popular banana lounge. This public room within the halls of MIT’s Compton Laboratories building is known to students simply as the banana lounge. And it is having a huge impact on the everyday lives of students who attend the institute.
A common zinger MIT students are used to hearing by now is that no other college campus boasts higher potassium levels. The banana lounge is exactly what it sounds like. A student space chock full of boxes of bananas, all at no cost to students and professors alike. According to The Boston Globe, the room is quite welcoming, with floor-to-ceiling windows. Other than boxes filled to the brim with bananas, the comforting 24/7 accessible room boasts colorful student murals, offers free coffee or hot cocoa, and is known as a quintessential matter of the MIT experience.
The banana lounge came into existence in 2015 because of a student named Malte Ahrens. Ahrens and some friends were looking to create a new genial space for MIT students to hang out, rest, and befriend fellow MIT Beavers. Ahrens knew that if they could come up with a way to offer free food, it would be even more enticing. In comes bananas.
Bananas are indeed a superfruit, for more than one reason. To start, they increase brain power and are loaded with good nutrients. Likewise, they are rather inexpensive, easy to transport because of the built-in handle we know as the peel, and lastly, as Ahrens put it, because they are “famously meme-able.” All of these reasons led Ahren to his pilot program, which combined logistics and effort –something students at MIT are known to specialize in – to run the fruitful banana lounge operation.
The banana lounge was a quick hit with everyone on the campus, and it has grown tremendously today. As of now, the operation is fully funded by a generous donor, Brad Feld, a venture capitalist, and MIT alumni. Various student organizers and volunteers streamline the entire process, with shipments being delivered three times a week to keep up with demands.
Logistics, statistics, and record keeping is a big part of student life and studies at MIT, and the banana lounge helps that. “We love documentation,” says Megan Lim, who currently helms logistics for the operation. She and others see it as an initiative to examine sustainability as well. Every facet of the banana lounge is measured as a means to maximize quality and efficiency. These students track delivery dates, country of origin, quality, ripeness, and even color. All of these studies can be used to further students’ knowledge in perspective career fields after college.
The banana lounge benefits students in a plethora of ways. It gives them a real-world feel, putting their studies at MIT to work. But it also serves as a safe space of zen, amid often stressful college life. There are a lot of layers to peel back from this peculiar student space, but one thing is for sure: it’s making a big difference in the college experience for many, one banana at a time.