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Fair Trade coffee resolution passed

Mary Kate Malone | Thursday, October 5, 2006

Backing a renewed interest in the plight of marginalized workers, the Student Senate passed a resolution Wednesday recommending Notre Dame Food Services serve only Fair Trade coffee in all of its non-franchised operations.

Currently, Fair Trade coffee is only available at select locations on campus.

Social Concerns committee chair Sheena Plamoottil presented the resolution with Gary Nijak and Chris Morrissey of Amnesty International, a Notre Dame human rights group that has made Fair Trade coffee its top priority this year.

If the resolution is pursued by Food Services – and there’s no guarantee that it will be – students could face a one or two cent increase in the price they pay for coffee, according to information from Indianapolis-based Better Beans for Life. The potential price increase at Notre Dame is hard to predict, Nijak said, since the University has not disclosed how much it currently pays for coffee.

The resolution, which passed 22-2, also calls for Food Services to make “education material” available wherever coffee is served to help students “understand the value of purchasing Fair Trade products.”

“Our goal is not just to have all students drinking Fair Trade on campus,” Plamoottil said. “We hope once students leave our Notre Dame bubble that they will take what they learned here … and actively make the decision to buy Fair Trade coffee.”

Fair Trade pricing ensures that farmers are paid $1.26 per pound of coffee beans, which is enough to support a family, Morrissey said. Fair Trade coffee eliminates the middle men – like millers, exporters and importers – and allows farmers to sell their beans directly to the roaster.

The conventional model for coffee trade, however, only pays a farmer about 30 cents per pound of coffee beans – creating a “gross disparity” between what consumers pay for coffee and what the farmers receive for producing it.

Currently, the Huddlemart, Reckers and the Jordan Hall of Science serve Fair Trade coffee exclusively. The University has had Fair Trade coffee on its campus for more than five years, and in 2003 it was added to several campus venues like Waddick’s in O’Shaughnessy Hall and the Café Commons in the Mendoza College of Business, among others.

But that’s not good enough, Morrissey said.

“It gives the moral decision-making authority to individuals rather than to the University community collectively,” he said.

Instead of being sold alongside conventional coffee, Morrissey believes Fair Trade brews should be the only coffee served on campus. And it should be in every location, not just select ones, he said.

But Fisher Senator Drew Clary feared the Fair Trade resolution did not accurately represent the interests of students, most of whom know very little about what Fair Trade coffee is, he said.

“My fear is, if this passes and [Food Services] takes us up on this, what’s going to be our motivation for education? The goal will have already been achieved,” Clary said.

Keenan Hall Senator Chris Beesley agreed with Clary.

“How can we represent the student body saying students want Fair Trade coffee when the vast majority doesn’t know what Fair Trade coffee is?” he said.

But he still felt the resolution was appropriate, given Notre Dame’s identity.

“I think this is in line with the Catholic vision of the University and I don’t see where that would be much of a problem.”

Now armed with the Senate’s backing, Amnesty International members will be presenting information about Fair Trade coffee in each residence hall in an effort to educate students on the issue.

“We need to decide to do the right thing,” Nijak said. “Even if it means a few extra cents per cup.”

In other business:

u Community Relations committee chair Josh Pasquesi said he plans to meet with local landlord Mark Kramer to learn more about how Kramer has worked with the South Bend Police department regarding the disorderly house ordinance. Both Shappell and South Bend city officials have said adding landlords to the dialogue about the ordinance will naturally improve how it is implemented.

u The second of three student-alumni receptions will take place from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Friday in the Coleman-Morse Center. Refreshments will be served and the first 50 people will receive pep rally tickets.