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Group aims to spread awareness of Fair Trade choices

By Emily Crane
On October 16, 2012

Students have likely seen the words "Fair Trade" sprinkled throughout Miami's campus, as a symbol on chocolate bars or a type of coffee in a dining hall, but many may not understand the meaning of Fair Trade.

Few recognize why Fair Trade is significant, according to junior Hannah Biggs, co-president of International Justice Mission (IJM) on Miami's campus.

"I feel like people have a general idea of what Fair Trade is, but not why it's necessary," Biggs said. "They recognize that it's better ethically but they don't know why."

Emma Stueffen, a first-year social work major is one such student who had a difficult time defining the term.

"I think it's the rights that farmers and producers have on what's being sold." Stueffen said.

In fact, Fair Trade is a worldwide movement that aims to empower communities and develop sustainability by developing an equitable trading model that will be beneficial to farmers and workers as well as the consumers and industries that they serve, according to Fair Trade USA's mission statement.

IJM is one organization that concerns itself with raising awareness of Fair Trade and emphasizing its widespread importance.

Fair Trade plays a significant role in decreasing the prevalence of slavery around the world today, Biggs said.

"People have to support their family and are forced into slavery or live as indentured servants," said Biggs. "If there are ways for them to make fair wages, they won't have to settle for the alternative which is slavery."

Jon Brubacher, manager of Purchasing and Operations for Housing, Dining, Recreation and Business Services said Miami sells Fair Trade products such as chocolate and tea in The Greystone market in Alexander Dining Hall, Shriver Center and Market Street at McCracken. It also offers Fair Trade coffee at every coffee location across campus, making coffee the largest usage Fair Trade item available.

"We make students aware [of Fair Trade] just by packaging and labeling," Brubacher said. "The problem is there simply aren't that many Fair Trade items out there."

The goal of Housing and Dining is to offer students as wide a variety of items as possible, according to Brubacher, but it is ultimately up to the students to make the decision.

Sophomore Halley Novak said she doesn't think very much about buying Fair Trade.

"I feel like it doesn't really affect my purchases much," Novak said. "I don't go out of my way to purchase Free Trade things; I go to the places that give me the lowest prices. I guess I haven't been paying attention to what Miami offers as Free Trade."

This is something that Biggs and IJM are trying to change. Fair Trade USA's slogan on their website reads, "Every purchase matters." Educating Miami students about the importance of their decisions as consumers is a primary concern for Biggs and the larger IJM organization.

"The larger organization of International Justice Mission is very into promoting fair labor practices," said Biggs. "One of the things we've been working on is putting together a curriculum to take into the dorms."

They piloted it in Porter Hall last year, teaching residents about the problem of modern day slavery and the role that Fair Trade can play in preventing it. They also pointed students to stores in Oxford that feature Fair Trade items: Kroger's organic section, Moon Co-op and the on-campus convenience stores.


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