Social justice: Coffee and chocolates for all

by Beacon Staff • February 15, 2006

The air was filled with the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee. Round tables filled the room, decorated with samples of 36 different flavors of chocolate.,At 80 Boylston St., the Emerson Room was abuzz with the low murmurs of students engaging in conversation over smooth jazz songs.

The air was filled with the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee. Round tables filled the room, decorated with samples of 36 different flavors of chocolate. Emerson students drifted between the tables, stopping periodically to pick up a piece of chocolate and taste it, savoring every bite.

Emerson Peace and Social Justice (EPSJ) offered these organic goods to students for free on Friday, Feb. 10 in an attempt to educate them on the cause of the Fair Trade program.

"Fair Trade is an international program that is dedicated to providing coffee and cocoa bean farmers with living wages to support themselves," said Stefanie Lynch, a sophomore political communication major and member of EPSJ.

According to Lynch, Fair Trade also provides education to these farmers so they can find other ways to support themselves in addition to farming.

Lynch said the Fair Trade cause is becoming more popular among college students.

"It's becoming trendy to be a conscious consumer," she said. "The Fair Trade movement is very focused on educating college students, and creating a new generation of activists."

Lynch encourages Emersonians to participate in EPSJ meetings and activities.

"Emerson students can purchase Fair Trade goods at supermarkets," Lynch said. "If these stores don't supply Fair Trade items, students can demand that these products be in stock."

According to Molly McCracken, member of EPSJ and a freshman theatre education major, Fair Trade products are available at supermarkets such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Harvest, all of which have locations in the Boston area.

Lynch said that students can also demand that the Little Building Dining Hall offer more Fair Trade products.

Currently, the Dining Hall offers two blends of Fair Trade coffee, Lynch said.

There were five different brands of Fair Trade chocolate available that evening, including Endangered Species and Rapunzel.

Many students seemed attracted to the Tropical Source mint crunch dark chocolate flavor and the Java City brand Utopian Blend coffee.

The Fair Trade newsletter Fair Trade News! lists several companies that carry Fair Trade products.

"In order for a product to be considered Fair Trade, that product must go through a process. The item must be organic" Lynch said.

The Fair Trade newsletter addressed one common misconception about Fair Trade products at Starbucks.

"Starbucks makes it seem as though it offers Fair Trade coffee, but in reality, they only carry one blend," McCracken said. "You have to ask for the Fair Trade blend in order to get it."

McCracken estimated there are about 10 Emerson students that attend weekly EPSJ meetings, and emphasized the importance of Fair Trade and the reasons why more students should participate.

"Fair Trade is a solution to poverty," McCracken said. "Many Emerson students care about the world. Fair Trade is one way to change the world."

According to Lynch, the Fair Trade products cost the same as any other brand, due to the reduced level of importing that Fair Trade products go through.

While offering free chocolate and coffee seemed to attract the attention of many students, the event was also successful in informing them about Fair Trade and gaining student interest.

The room was decorated with informative notecards which revealed facts about the poverty cocoa and coffee bean farmers sometimes face.

"I am interested in Fair Trade, but I was also interested in the free coffee and chocolate," said Graham Wichman, a junior film major. "This is definitely something that I'd invest my time in. We need more clubs like this."