by Rebekah Bresee
In an effort to make Whitworth a completely fair trade university, UNITE has asked Sodexo to remove any snack products from the café that are not made by fair trade companies.
Fair trade products are those which come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated.
Molly Hough, ASWU and UNITE president, presented the idea to Dan King, the operations manager of Sodexo, at the beginning of the year.
“Unite is a movement that connects students, nonprofits, businesses, high schools, legislature, law enforcement, churches, etc. to each other to stand up and speak out against modern day slavery,” Hough said.
King made the decision to aid the UNITE program in their efforts. He said he had no problem making this decision.
“I would rather serve healthier options anyway,” King said. Candy has been replaced with snacks such as different varieties of trail mix, mixed nuts, and granola bars.
Changing the products in the café to fair trade is part of the UNITE movement.
The Sodexo staff conducted research on which products were not fair trade and Molly showed them the products listed on the Not for Sale website. Not for Sale is an organization which fights human trafficking and modern-day slavery around the world.
“Sodexo was so great and so cooperative,” Hough said.
Hershey’s and Mars candy companies are labeled as “medium risk” companies on the “Free2Work” smart phone application by Not for Sale.
Free2Work draws risk data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s “List of Goods Produced with Child Labor or Forced Labor.”
They base the ranking of products by the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons’ Trafficking in Persons Report “Tier Placements.” These “tiers” measure governmental efforts to prevent trafficking.
A “medium risk product” means that zero of the top five countries from which the company sources are on the DOL List but not all of the top five countries from which the company sources are listed in “Tier 1.”
King took quick action on eliminating these candy brands from the café merchandise, replacing them with more local, sustainable and fair trade products. However, King said he cannot guarantee all the products being served in the café are from fair trade companies.
This is because not all of the food in the café has been researched. UNITE and Sodexo are continuing to work together to find local, healthy and high quality products.
“Changing the products is a work in progress,” King said. “I definitely plan to expand the options of fair trade products.”
If there is a product in the café that is not fair trade, the Sodexo team looks for a similar item for replacement.
Both Hough and King said they have received no negative feedback about the changes being made to the food to their offices.
However, Sodexo staff member Laura Steele said she occasionally gets complaints from the students.
“Many students ask when we are going to get candy bars or wonder where the gum is,” Steele said.
Although having the option of candy bars is missed, student response to the healthier snacks has been positive.
“I get quite a few students who say: ‘I like healthy.’ They like the Nutri-Grain bars and trail mix,” Steele said.
When questioned by students about the changes, Steele said she tries to explain to them about the fair trade movement.
Hough said an information sheet is going up in the cafeteria to inform students about why the changes have been made and to educate them on fair trade.
Getting rid of candy bars in the café is one step of the beginning stages to make Whitworth a completely fair trade university.
“We are working towards becoming the first fair trade university in Washington,” Hough said.
According to fairtradeuniversities.org, Whitworth University and Eastern Washington University are the only colleges in Washington that are in the process of creating fair trade campuses.
Becoming a fair trade university will mean securing institutional commitment to implant fair trade principles and practices within administrative policy.
Hough said other changes that may be implemented include altering the coffee in the coffee shop, finding other food products in Sodexo, and locating where products in the bookstore come from.
Recently, a committee has been formed by the university to find out which vendors the bookstore is using for their products. On the committee are two ASWU representatives who are advocates for fair trade.
Students on the committee are pushing for the bookstore vendors to say their products are ethically sourced.
“It is hard to ask a business to shed light on things that they may not want to shed light on,” Hough said.
Yet these students are willing to ask a business to reveal the origin of their merchandise and request that they make a change in order to create a campus that supports fair trade and fair trade products.
Though these are just the beginning steps, Hough said she hopes that making these changes will set an example for students and other businesses on campus.
“Students are not afraid to voice their opinion and make changes,” Hough said. “I am really excited to be a fair trade college.”
Students who have questions about fair trade or any other UNITE movements can email Molly and the UNITE team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Rebekah Bresee at email@example.com.