Posts Tagged ‘World Fair Trade Day’

The following reflection was offered by Andrew Kessel, Natural Foods Account Representative, Equal Exchange

What is your food co-op, favorite place to get a cup of coffee, or house of worship doing this Saturday for World Fair Trade Day?


Danica Yacik, from the Bound Brook Presbyterian Church in Middlesex, NJ. 

Danica Yacik, from the Bound Brook Presbyterian Church in Middlesex, NJ  


It is no surprise that an important factor contributing to Equal Exchange’s success is the diversity of support that we receive in helping build the Fair Trade movement. Much of this support has come from our retail partners – food co-ops, natural food stores, cafés, and even a few offices and conventional supermarkets, while other support has come from civil society – churches, synagogues, schools, and activist coalitions. With Fair Trade day coming up this Saturday and our 23rd birthday (May 1st), we are celebrating.

Let’s take the time to honor our partners for their support and creativity.


All across the U.S., we have seen examples of people acting and thinking creatively to engage consumers in Fair Trade. In Wisconsin, the Milwaukee FT Coalition does a Fair Trade crawl and has passports that get stamped as people visit local Fair Trade businesses. In Maryland, the students at St. Mary’s College  fought with the administration to make their own food service more sustainable and ethical.  Over the last two years, they were able to start a composting system, grow their own garden on campus, and bring in Fair Trade coffee. Last year, they helped start an Equal Exchange café on campus and we are continuing to work them as they try to convert the other café on campus, currently a Starbucks café, into a second Equal Exchange Café!


In preparation for World Fair Trade Day, a lot of people seem to be organizing and planning events around the world’s largest Fair Trade coffee break.  Outpost Natural Foods Co-op (Milwaukee, WI) is featuring two Fair Trade product displays: one with wines and chocolates and another one for produce including our Domestic Fair Trade snacks (pecans, cranberries, and almonds) along with some Fair Trade bananas, locally made Fair Trade chocolate, and caramel ice cream to top it off – sounds like a delicious Fair Trade split!   Weaver’s Way Co-op (Philadelphia, PA) also is setting up a display with our hot cocoas and Fair Trade snacks with a Fair Trade hiking theme.


These events in May are not anomalies as many people continue to use the holidays as excuses to promote a more equitable form of trade.  Starting in February with Valentine’s Day and all of the obvious chocolate connections and then with May (Fair Trade Day), people have gotten creative in July as well.  For example, Lori’s Natural (Rochester, NY) made an interesting display featuring independent companies on Independence Day.  In October, we celebrate Co-op and Fair Trade month and many retailers have come up with displays featuring products from other co-operative businesses.  Halloween, at the end of the month, has also been a particularly fruitful time for education and outreach and Equal Exchange has helped lead the charge with our Reverse Trick-or-Treating campaign.


Some people have really taken it upon themselves to use Halloween as a teaching moment:  “Now that I’m aware [of child slavery on cocoa farms], I feel it is my duty to tell everyone I can about how they can use their consumer dollars to change the world. That’s why last October during Halloween I organized an event at The Gathering church in Salem, Massachusetts called Death by Chocolate. Volunteers from The Gathering, Grace Fellowship, the organization Not for Sale, Gordon College and I gave tourists free Equal Exchange mini bars which they could eat while listening to a recorded story about a boy who was tricked into working in the cocoa fields in Africa. It was a bittersweet experience. They loved the chocolate. And they were as shocked as I was to learn about the existence of slavery in the production of non-Fair Trade chocolate.”- Anita Coco of Grace Fellowship Church in Danvers, Massachusetts, and is active in the Disciples of Christ Coffee Project.

Lastly, we can’t forget the end-of-the year festivities when everyone is looking for a creative idea.  At the Humble Bean Coffeehouse (Sioux Center, Iowa), the owners looked for a way to re-use materials and commit to green business principles. For over a couple of months they saved the silver 5 lb bulk bags that our coffee comes in and used them to make wreathes for Christmas time.  They even had some of the “regular” customers help them out, resulting in a beautiful Fair Trade Christmas Gala.



ChristmasWreathsThe Humble Bean is not the only place that’s found interesting ways to re-use the 5 lb. bulk bags.  One employee at Bloomingfoods Co-op (Bloomington, IN) used the bags to make Fair Trade wallets which she then sent back to us as gifts while another employee there used the bags for a local parade as “Ms. Fair Trade.”  Go Bloomingfoods Co-op!

Nicki from Bloomingfoods during the town’s annual parade – seen here as Ms. “Fair Trade”

Nicki from Bloomingfoods during the town’s annual parade – seen here as Ms. “Fair Trade”. Little Uncle Sam is her son.




And finally, sometimes places such as Bulldog News (Seattle, WA),  one of our cafe accounts, are just plain too cool for words.  They did a Fair Trade coffee tasting at the University of Washington’s Burke Musueum (Natural History) in conjunction with an exhibit on coffee!

The funny thing is that people are always being creative and coming up with fun ideas for promoting Fair Trade and we sometimes forget that collectively it does add up and make a difference.  A lot of times we don’t even hear about what’s going on but we know that there are people out there helping organize to become the next Fair Trade town, or students (such as the group,  United Students for Fair Trade ) who are working to encourage their food service suppliers to switch to Fair Trade products, and the countless others pushing for a more ethical and sustainable food system.  So as we celebrate, others build displays; enjoy Fair Trade splits and a cup of coffee to recognize Fair Trade Day on Saturday, what will you – as consumers – do?

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Tomorrow is World Fair Trade Day and it seemed a great time to let you know about two exciting educational resources designed to foster real change in our global food system.

The first is an exciting tool focused on Fair Trade for parents, teachers and activists who would like to bring social justice to the classroom through a multi-media curriculum about small farmers across the globe that grow our cocoa, coffee, tea and other products. This multi-media curriculum introduces students to the issues facing small-scale farmers and shows the ways in which consumer choices can affect their lives and communities.

Equal Exchange’s curriculum, Win-Win Solutions: An Introduction to Fair Trade and Cooperative Economics is free and available for download!

This curriculum gives youngsters enough information to understand the kind of change that is needed and the tools to help them take appropriate actions:


Win Solutions: An Introduction to Fair Trade and Cooperative Economics

Unit 1: Our Choices Matter—why change to our food system is necessary and how we can make a difference

Unit 2: Understanding Fair Trade—role plays to help students begin to imagine life as a small scale cocoa farmer


Unit 3: Understanding Cooperatives—real-life trade-offs and stories from the lives of organized small scale farmers


Unit 4:  Make A Difference—A template for students to work together to solve real, local community problems. 


PLUS: the curriculum can now support Equal Exchange school fundraisers.  Raise money and make a difference!

Lisa Knutson, teacher at Montessori Visions Academy in Las Vegas, Nevada :  “The curriculum has sparked great interest and insight in my class and has lead to wonderful discussions about fairness and economics.”



The second exciting education-for-action curriculum was created by two long-time organizational friends and allies of Equal Exchange: Grassroots International and the National Family Farm Coalition:



Our global food system is terribly broken. Together we can fix it!

The food sovereignty movement is an exciting grassroots movement that has developed internationally in response to the havoc wrought by the current food system. It is composed of small farmers, farmworkers, fishers, consumers, environmentalists and indigenous peoples, all seeking to reclaim the right of nations and communities to define their own agricultural, labor, fishing, food and land policies. The food sovereignty movement calls for policies – local, national and international – that are ecologically, socially, economically and culturally sound.

The curriculum is divided into four modules: one each for consumers, faith and anti-hunger groups, environmentalists and farmers, all designed to help:

  • Understand the ways in which current U.S. agricultural, trade and energy policies undermine the right of communities and nations around the world to determine their own food policies
  • See how food sovereignty and locally based food systems rooted in social justice and environmental sustainability can be practical alternatives to unsustainable industrial agriculture
  • Envision how people can act together across borders to build local food systems and pass fair agriculture, trade and energy policies

“Food for Thought and Action: A Food Sovereignty Curriculum is a remarkably useful popular education tool. It offers a practical way to strengthen a growing food sovereignty movement that includes consumers, farmers, environmentalists and faith communities. Building from the experiences of literally millions of grassroots activists worldwide, Food for Thought and Action challenges us to fix our broken food system.” Micahel Pollan, Author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire

The curriculum is free and available electronically.

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Karisa Centanni, education coordinator at the Honest Weight Food Co-op, a member owned and operated natural foods grocery store on Central Avenue in Albany travelled with Equal Exchange to visit CESMACH, one of our co-operative partners in Chiapas, Mexico.

For World Fair Trade Day on May 10th, Karisa wrote about her impressions of CESMACH, and offered some reflections on the connections between the Buy Local and Fair Trade movements, which were published in the Greenfield Daily Gazette’s Community Blog: Greenpoint

Ruth Ann Smalley, of the Honest Weight Food Co-op interviewed Karisa, and then did further research about the relationship between coffee and the environment.  To read this interesting article, entitled, “The Birds and the Beans: Preserving diversity and promoting small farmers through cooperative coffee,”  please go to Coop Scoop.

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