Students fight for ‘fair’ coffee

A new student organization is calling on the University to offer Fair Trade coffee at all GW dining locations. While George Washington United Students for Fair Trade members said they are happy GW sells the coffee at some locations, their goal is 100 percent Fair Trade brew on campus.

Coffee labeled Fair Trade goes through a certification process that ensures farmers get livable wages for their crop. This means farmers make about $1.26 per pound as opposed to the 20 to 30 cents per pound they currently receive.

Transfair USA, an independent third party organization, certifies and monitors companies to ensure Fair Trade procedures are being followed.

“We track the coffee from crop to cup,” said Scott Codey, the D.C. Fair Trade Campaign Coordinator. Since the campaign’s creation in the 1970s, Codey said Transfair has put $18 million “back in the hands of small family farmers.”

GW’s branches of Starbucks, Ben and Jerry’s, the Home Zone and Java City began serving Fair Trade products this year. But GWUSFT members are pushing to ensure all dining facilities offer only Fair Trade coffee.

“A lot of people don’t know about (Fair Trade Coffee), which is not a good thing,” said Lina Musayev, president of GWUSFT and cofounder of its umbrella organization, United Students for Fair Trade. “We want to get people on board. That’s my responsibility – to teach people.”

Although GWUSFT members said they are working hard to bring Fair Trade to all of campus, dining officials said they don’t believe the University will ever switch entirely.

“The problem is, there is a limited selection of flavors,” said Amelia Powell, Aramark’s marketing director, adding that hazelnut and French vanilla varieties are not available in Fair Trade form. GW contracts Aramark to manage all on-campus eating options.

But she acknowledged GWUSFT’s concerns and that the University has been “quick” to have Fair Trade “in as many places as possible.”

Musayev said the only reason the University wouldn’t switch completely to Fair Trade is fear of higher prices. However, Powell noted that prices are comparable.

The Home Zone is currently the only venue on campus that serves only Fair Trade Coffee. Starbucks has at least one Fair Trade option available daily, but students may have to ask employees to brew it, Musayev said. Ben and Jerry’s also offers Fair Trade vanilla, chocolate and coffee ice creams. Java City also offers Fair Trade brews.

Some companies on campus, such as Einstein Bros. Bagels, do not offer Fair Trade Coffee nationally. If Einstein’s changes its policy, Powell said the University will begin serving the coffee at those locations.

University officials said they are open to bringing other Fair Trade products to campus.

GWUSFT members said they will be meeting with University dining officials on Friday to present their goals.

“(We’re) students for something, not against,” Musayev said. “If we’re rational, they’ll be more willing to work with us … If we, the new generation, raise the demand, they’ll see that.”

Powell said Dining Services is “looking to the students to tell us what their needs are.”

Since its inception in September, GWUSFT has grown to over 100 members and has acquired over 600 petition signatures.

“I haven’t talked to anyone who wasn’t supportive,” said Student Association Sen. Mohammed Ali (U-CCAS).

“That’s the important thing … our University is all about pleasing its students, so why not please them with this,” Musayev said.

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