Fair trade at Keene State

Students ask for administrative approval to make KSC recognized as a fair trade institution

It doesn’t matter where you’re from; everyone wants to get paid fairly for their work.

Here at Keene State College, efforts have been and continue to be made on acknowledging this ideology for workers in developing countries. The notion is known as fair trade. Items made and sold as fair trade are “made with respect to people and [the] planet” according to fairtradeusa.org.

The website continued to say, “Our rigorous social, environmental and economic standards work to promote safe and healthy working conditions, protect the environment, enable transparency and empower communities to build strong, thriving businesses.”

Here at Keene State, students feel propelled to have the institution recognized as a fair trade college. This wouldn’t really mean too much other than the recognition, but it could encourage people to be more mindful of their purchases and lifestyles.

Dorothy England  / news editor

Dorothy England / news editor

KSC senior Kayla Winterson started a proposal this semester, followed suit with the Fair Trade Club members before her.

The group has been trying for years to get KSC recognized as a fair trade college. As of now, the current petition has over 100 signatures and the current members of the club said they have been trying to get KSC President Anne Huot to sign the document since October. This would be the final step in getting that recognition. At the time of The Equinox printing, President Huot had yet to sign off on their proposal.

An interview request from The Equinox went out to Huot, but  Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations Kelly Ricaurte informed The Equinox that President Huot was away.

Winterson said if KSC was to become recognized for its fair trade efforts, this could have a ripple effect on others. “It’s making a public endorsement that…as a college, we have elements that support the fair trade movement and allow fair trade options on campus,” she said.

She continued that this could also attract people to the college. “The recognition of KSC as a fair trade college is making a commitment to conscience consumerism and raising awareness for fair trade,” she said. Winterson said for her, being involved in the Fair Trade Club at KSC gives her a greater sense of the world around her.

“In this community that is educated and eager to be involved, it’s an outlet that allows students to be passionate about a social justice cause,” she said.

Another member of the Fair Trade Club, KSC senior Nicole Verrilli, said she feels like as a group, they do everything they can to raise awareness to other students. “What we really want this semester is to make Keene State College a fair trade college,” she said. Verrilli said Keene State already meets the requirements set to be recognized as a fair trade college.

These requirements include but are not limited to having an active club on campus, being involved with other campus outlets such as Lloyd’s and the dining commons, where fair trade items are included and implementing educational resources for the greater community of Keene State.

“We met all the requirements to become a fair trade college…,” Verrilli said. “It’s just a title for Keene State College to have to show support for the fair trade movement. We wouldn’t have to change anything on campus.”

Verrilli said there’s a much bigger picture at play here too. “Fair trade helps empower farmers and workers in third world countries to ensure they earn a living wage [and] work in safe conditions. [It] empowers women, child labor and so much more. It makes sure in a more global society that third world countries are not being taken advantage of,” she said.

In an e-mail interview with the General Manager of Sodexo and the Zorn Dining Commons, Josef Quirinale stated that KSC sells and provides many fair trade items.

These include Equal Exchange chocolate bars and teas, Maine Root Soda, fruit and Runa beverages and teas. Quirinale also stated that all coffee options at the dining commons are fair trade.

He stated the coffee is “very popular.” He also stated that it’s always different how well the fair trade items do in regards of selling well. “Some do and some do not,” he stated. “In retail, Equal Exchange chocolate sells pretty well. Since the tea is a flavor option, it’s hard to determine if it sells because it is fair trade. The sodas are moderate sellers, but not the most popular. Our local coffee roaster Prime Roast provides one fair trade blend for us [called] Demon Roast. It is the most popular blend.”

Quirinale stated that Sodexo makes decisions based on the need and demand of the college community, as well as the costs associated with what is provided.

“It is easier to provide fair trade in retail because we can price it so [the school] does not lose money – our operating budget is derived from student meal plan money and it would not be fiscally responsible to sell an item that would diminish funds meant for daily meals. Sodexo is contracted by KSC to provide the dining service and manage the student’s meal plan [money],” he stated.

He stated that often there can be problems for fair trade items aren’t always sold in retail. “As an example, we tried to provide fair trade bananas as an alternative a few years ago, and size and quality were not consistent or acceptable, availability was spotty [because] a storm prevented shipment and at one point we were not able to get the shipment,” he stated. “In addition, having more fair trade items in a student’s meal plan could incur a price raise.”

“If we were able to get fair trade bananas consistently, their cost is three times that of what we purchase now. Providing all dining commons options to every student at an average meal cost of roughly $5.80 is challenging and the addition of fair trade would mean the meal plan cost would need to increase or [the] variety of offerings would need to be curtailed,” he stated.

Quirinale stated that at times, getting fair trade items can be difficult because the school depends on outside resources. However, he stated they do try to accommodate as best they can. “Our vendors have been very good providers of fair trade products when we have special requests,” he stated.  Even with some troubles, Quirinale stated that incorporating fair trade at a college does matter. “Providing fair trade items is important because of the moral and sustainable implications,” he stated.

For more information, see The Equinox editorial on A5.

Dorothy England can be contacted at  dengland@kscequinox.com 

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