March 9, 2004

Cornell Dining to Offer Fair Trade Coffee

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In response to student demands for fair trade coffee alternatives, Cornell Dining will begin to offer Seattle-based Pura Vida fair trade coffee starting March 5 at Okenshield’s. North Star, Risley and J’s Express will offer Pura Vida starting tomorrow, and after spring break, Pura Vida will be available at Jansen’s and Robert Purcell Marketplace Eatery.

“There were many companies that originally took part in our initial coffee cuttings. After a few tastings, it was narrowed down to two companies, where Pura Vida was picked,” stated Harry Ashendorf, a retail manager for Cornell Dining, in an e-mail.

The combined efforts of the Cornell Organization for Labor Action, Roots and Shoots, the Greens, Cornell United Students Against Sweatshops and the Society for Natural Resource Conservation helped bring further exposure to the fair trade coffee issue and pressured Cornell Dining to extensively offer fair trade coffee. Cornell currently offers Seattle’s Best fair trade French Roast in decaffeinated and regular.

“Seattle’s Best coffee will still be offered at the units currently selling it. Seattle’s Best does carry an organic fair trade coffee that most units are selling,” Ashendorf said.

Dining halls at Cornell use concentrate liquid coffee akin to the concentrate found in juice machines. At the end of last year, Pura Vida became the first company to ever offer fair trade liquid coffee.

“[Cornell Dining] went and they looked and said, ‘If the price is right on, the quality is better, we’ll go for it’,” said Roots and Shoots member Jessica Brown ’04 about Pura Vida’s coffee.

“Students definitely love [Pura Vida’s] mission, the messaging. They’ve got really clear information about what fair trade is, they don’t try to confuse anybody. They’re a 100-percent fair trade company, which helps with that, because Seattle’s Best’s messaging can be really confusing because they don’t want you to really realize that only three of their lines are fair trade,” Brown added.

Fair trade efforts are usually focused on bringing higher wages and better living conditions to small coffee growers in the global south.

“We have to start paying attention to alternatives that are out there to alleviate a lot of the poverty in the world, and one of those options is fair trade coffee which guarantees the farmers who grow coffee a living wage,” COLA member Tomer Malchi ’04 said.

The half-century old fair trade movement is currently attempting to bring coffee growers fair prices for their product by opening and expanding fair trade coffee markets. For the past two years, the price per pound for coffee has hovered around forty or fifty cents, far below the costs of production.

“[Fair trade] keeps people on their land and keeps small farmers on their land, so it battles land concentration. That’s been a huge problem in Latin America forever,” Brown said.

For Cornell Dining, expanding fair trade coffee options campus-wide represents responsiveness to student action regarding dining issues.

“It was because the price difference was minimal and the quality was better,” Brown said, that Cornell Dining chose to switch.

“[Cornell Dining] like[s] doing the right thing; they like the idea of fair trade; they like the idea of Pura Vida as a company; they think it’s great that it’s also a charity,” she added. Pura Vida gives 100 percent of its net profits to charitable organizations.

Although the addition of Pura Vida coffee to the dining halls and J’s Express is a victory for the student organizations involved, Malachi believes that Cornell Dining should offer fair trade coffee even more extensively.

“We’re still waiting for the dining committee to get fair trade coffee in every single caf