Archive for April, 2010

Linda Cowden, Produce Manager with the first shipment of EE bananas

Rita York, General Manager of the Community Mercantile, a food co-operative in Lawrence, Kansas sent the following note to Jeanie Wells, former GM who now works here with us:

Dear Jeanie:

We are so excited to have Equal Exchange Fair Trade Bananas! I attached a few photos for you to see and pass on to your buddies at Equal Exchange!

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Equal Exchange BananasAs the number of food co-ops and natural food stores carrying Equal Exchange bananas continues to grow, excited shoppers and grocery store staff have been sending us photos of the displays. We get a thrill every time we see our fair trade, organic bananas, direct from El Guabo’s small banana growers in Ecuador, in stores across the U.S .  The photos below (from Mississippi Market in St. Paul, Minnesota) show the names of those farmers who have produced that weeks’s bananas. How beautiful is that?!

Photos (and design work) care of Spunk Design Machine.

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The following article was written by Kayleigh DeMello, Fundraising Program Representative

Delia Santos, the fabulous Ms. Kim Montgomery, Lydia Santos Westchester Academy for International Studies Spring Branch I.S.D.

Organic, Green and Fair Trade: these are three words you don’t usually find in your kid’s school fundraiser. In a market littered with cheap tricks and even cheaper products, here’s an alternative to making your next fundraiser good for the environment, good for small farmers and good for you!

Many of us have been there… staring down at a glossy catalog, our eyes glazing over from one crowded page to the next. A small child is bouncing on their toes nearby, eagerly awaiting your purchasing decision and thinking only of the plastic toy (made in China) that they will receive at the end of this for all their hard work. At this point we close our eyes and point to something at random. This time: a tub full of cookie dough. The last time: holographic gift wrap that made your head hurt just thinking how and where or how it was made.

The truth is these items sell.  Schools need to fundraise in order to offer important services, like after- school programs, classes focusing on the arts and sciences, even paying for practical and common sense items like markers, tape and special reading materials. The large fundraising companies cater to these needs, touting large margins in exchange for inexpensive junk. We buy because we care about our schools and our community… but there are alternatives available that allow us to support our schools while also supporting a more fair and just food system.

I’d like to introduce you to Equal Exchange Fundraising: a program of the first and largest Fair Trade company in the United States. Equal Exchange offers something you won’t find anywhere else in the fundraising world: organic and fairly traded foods, beautiful fairly traded gifts and recycled cotton gift wrap (tree-free!). With Equal Exchange Fundraising, your school or organization can support sustainability, enjoy award-winning products and make a difference in the lives of small farmers and artisans across the globe.

Hundreds of schools have made the switch. “I don’t think I could do any other fundraiser,” said Kim Montgomery, a seventh grade teacher in Houston, Texas, who has participated in the fundraiser for the past three years. “The Equal Exchange fundraiser has great products and a good mission.” These products include fairly traded and organic coffee, chocolate bars, cocoa, tea, and healthy snacks – things people consume every day. Here’s a fundraiser that helps fund a school’s valuable programs – things like arts and science programs – while also benefitting small-scale farmers who grow really high-quality foods in remote parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The Equal Exchange Fundraising Program also provides an opportunity to talk with kids about where their foods come from, how wealth is distributed around the world, and how we can make choices as consumers to make that wealth distribution fairer. There’s even a Fair Trade curriculum, Win-Win Solutions. With this curriculum, your child can learn about the life of a cocoa farmer and how their daily actions have direct impact on the lives of farmers across the globe.   

You can contribute to a more just world, be green, raise money for your school and eat well – all in one simple fundraiser. For more information and to sign up for a free info kit, go to www.equalexchange.coop/fundraiser.  

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We received the following letter yesterday from our friends and colleagues at Grassroots International, an organization dedicated to furthering economic, social and human rights by funding global movements for social change. Please take a moment to read the letter and take action now.

Dear Friends,

As early as next week, the US Senate could vote on legislation with tremendous consequences for farmers and small producers across the globe.  The Lugar-Casey Global Food Security Act, also known as S. 384, aims to increase US foreign assistance for agricultural research and production and represents the biggest US agricultural aid initiative in more than half a century.   
Please take action now to tell your Senator to oppose this legislation until the ‘GE Clause’ is removed.

As a result, the legislation directs $7.7 billion toward agricultural research and development, including a federal requirement that U.S. taxpayers pick up the tab for GE crop research.

Contact your Senators now and tell them ‘No GE crops in foreign aid.’

However, this ostensibly laudable effort is deeply flawed by a clause which specifically mandates research on genetically engineered (GE) crops.

Although Senator Lugar has responded to critics of the GE Clause that the language was meant to simply highlight GE research as eligible for funding, not mandate it, the actual text of the bill says otherwise and must be revised before its passage in Congress.

Public records indicate that agricultural biotechnology giants like Monsanto have spent millions of dollars lobbying members of Congress to shape S. 384.

The push for this critical Senate vote coincides with International Day of Peasants’ Struggles, April 17th.  Fourteen years ago, this day was declared by Grassroots International’s partner the Via Campesina to commemorate the slaughter of 19 members of Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement by military police.  To honor peasants’ struggles this year, the Via Campesina has called on member organizations and supporters to say “No to corporate control of agriculture and food.”  Moreover, scientists who have examined the evidence around the globe agree: GE crops are not the answer to world hunger.  Recent UN reports point to agroecological methods, like those promoted by Via Campesina, as a much more viable solution to sustainably meeting the world’s food production needs.Take a stand for food sovereignty today by telling your Senators to oppose the Global Food Security Act’s mandate for GE research. 

If passed, the Global Food Security Act will not only massively expand US funding for GE technology, it will also serve to further consolidate corporate control of food systems and undermine food sovereignty.

Thank you for all that you do.


Nikhil Aziz
Executive Director

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First Chiquita paid fines of $25 million in 2007 for having paid “protection money” to the AUC, a right wing para-military organization in Colombia who are on the U.S. government’s list of terrorist organizations.  (Read more here.)

Now they are being sued for having paid money to the FARC, a left wing group also on the United States’ terrorist list…  (Read the article here.)

Isn’t it time for consumers to put their money where their values are? (Read more here.)

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Last fall, Equal Exchange joined with more than 80 other organizations, and 90,000 concerned individuals, to register our opposition to the appointment of Islam Siddiqui as Chief Agricultural Negotiator at the U.S. Trade Office. Read more here.
We wish to thank all our readers who signed the petition and voiced their concerns. Despite this widespread opposition, however, President Obama has gone ahead with the appointment.

For Immediate Release – March 31, 2010

Obama Installs Pesticide Lobbyist to Key Post
Siddiqui appointed during recess, overriding public protest and democratic process

SAN FRANCISCO – Overriding unprecedented public opposition to an agricultural trade nominee, President Obama quietly installed Islam Siddiqui as Chief Agricultural Negotiator at the US Trade Office, during the Senate recess. Siddiqui is a former pesticide lobbyist and vice president of regulatory affairs for CropLife America, a lobbying group representing the interests of pesticide and biotech corporations.

Last fall, Equal Exchange joined over 90,000 concerned individuals and 80+ groups in registering our opposition to Siddiqui’s appointment. Groups included family farmer and farmworker, anti-hunger, trade, faith-based, sustainable agriculture, consumer and environmental advocates. The number of organizations uniting in opposition to Siddiqui’s appointment has since grown to over 110.

Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, Senior Scientist at Pesticide Action Network, explains, “Our concern remains that Siddiqui’s aggressive promotion of transgenic crops around the world and his rejection of other countries’ use of the precautionary principle in restricting GMO imports make him a singularly poor choice for this important post. We join much of the American public in believing that his position at Crop Life should flatly disqualify him for public service in this sector. CropLife’s record includes pushing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allow testing of pesticides on children, lobbying to weaken the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act and doing everything in its power to undermine international treaties governing the use and export of toxic chemicals. (more…)

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 The following post was written by Rob Everts, Co-Director of Equal Exchange.

Rob Everts at the Equal Exchange Cafe in Boston.

This submission to our Small Farmers Big Change blog is admittedly a divergence from the topics of lively debate encouraged in these pages.  Divergent yes, but entirely consistent with the broader mission of Equal Exchange to build a more equitable world.


On April 1, 2010, I had the opportunity to join Lilly Ledbetter, Vicki Reggie Kennedy and Governor Deval Patrick, among others, to build momentum for proposed legislation that would guarantee seven paid sick days per year to workers in Massachusetts.  Remarkably, over 40% of private sector workers in this state do not receive a single paid sick day.  These workers tend to be in service sector jobs populated in large numbers by women, and equally as often by African Americans and immigrant workers.  Furthermore, of the total Massachusetts workforce – including those who have access to paid sick days—two-thirds cannot use these days to care for a sick child or an elderly parent.  For more information on the bill and ongoing campaign, see www.masspaidleave.org.

As a progressive employer who has long guaranteed paid sick days and other family friendly benefits to worker owners and employees on the path to co-op membership, we were asked to join the campaign both to inspire workers that their modest demands are just and to hopefully encourage other businesses to support the legislation.  In two consecutive legislative sessions I have testified on behalf of Equal Exchange for the bill. 

At the rally on April 1st, it was my turn to be inspired.  Among the moving testimonies shared that day, perhaps the most gripping was that of Lilly Ledbetter.  As a reminder to readers, for 19 years, Ms. Ledbetter worked as an area manager for the Goodyear Tire Company in Alabama, during which time she was paid less than her male colleagues. Ms. Ledbetter did not discover this until she was preparing for retirement, at which time she sued. In 2007, her case was brought to the Supreme Court and in a 5-4 decision the Court said she had exceeded the statute of limitations. Senator Ted Kennedy was touched by Ms. Ledbetter’s case and the injustice of her situation. He introduced a bill to correct the Court’s decision so that other women would have redress when denied their right to equal pay. Known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, it was the first bill that President Obama signed into law in 2009.  She now travels widely advocating for fairness at work.  It is in this context that Ms. Ledbetter notes that since women are still the primary care-takers of their families, a lack of paid sick days is another way in which women are paid less; or worse, lose their jobs, thereby jeopardizing any chance for economic security. 

I spoke at length with Lilly before the rally.  (I’ve shifted to the personal reference here because within minutes it felt like we had become fast friends.)  We agreed that issues like this are at their root, quite simple: a matter of basic fairness.  They also make common business sense.  The warmth and personal debt of gratitude she feels toward Senator Kennedy—and to Vicki—was palpable.  And it helps drive her, a woman of over 70 years of age who not long ago lost her husband and is of modest means, to continue putting herself on the line for social and economic justice.  Lilly, along with the other 200-300 people in attendance were incredibly grateful for the visible and vocal role Equal Exchange is playing in this ongoing struggle.  Indeed, the big change we are working for takes many forms.

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