A successful gathering of food venders took place recently to celebrate Trent University in becoming a leader in sustainability and ethical purchasing through its commitment to Fair Trade certified products on campus. Doctor Stephen Franklin, president of Trent University, spoke at the March 18 event with pride for the designation of our campus.

The event intended to educate on what it means to be a “Fair Trade Campus.” Among the samples of the products certified were tea, coffee and hot chocolate, all to be served on campus through every food vender with Fair Trade certification. Ten Thousand Villages, a not-for-profit fair trade organization that markets handcrafted products made by disadvantaged artisans from more than 120 artisan groups in 35 countries, joined the event as well.

Along with the University of British Columbia and the University of Guelph, Trent joins the movement towards a stronger global consciousness of poverty, sustainability, and the environment.

Fair Trade Trent is a group of OPIRG (Ontario Public Interest Research Group) Peterborough and began lobbying to make fair trade products available in Trent’s cafeterias since fall of 2003. Paola Hernandez, OPIRG’s Volunteer Coordinator, spoke on the development of the campaign.

“This campaign started in 2006 in hopes to achieve this designation. In order to become that we follow a set of standards Fairtrade Canada has set for institutions. The products must be certified as fair trade and coffee, at least three fair trade teas, and at least one chocolate bar should be available. We are embarking on a hot chocolate campaign as well, but it is about promoting visibility. It’s not just about selling the products, but making more of an effort to promote and educate the consumer about what fair trade is.”

Hernandez promotes a wide-spread adaptation of this campaign, echoing Fairtrade Canada’s encouragement of the movement. “The recognition of UBC as Canada’s first Fair Trade Campus sets an example for other campuses across the country and further demonstrates Canadians’ commitment to fairness and respect for the farmers and artisans who produce the products we enjoy,” says Michael Zelmer of Fairtrade Canada.

The application on their website (fairtrade.ca) states that any college or university can be designated a Fair Trade Campus once it has met a series of standards. Once a college or university has met the standards, a representative of the newly formed committee need only contact them, formally apply, and provide supporting documentation.

Through the hard work of volunteer-run student initiatives that worked toward forming a committee with Trent administrators and Aramark to achieve this designation, Fair Trade Trent had been successful in their four-year campaign. The exceptions to the designations are companies such as Tim Hortons, however, the prospect of students who regularly purchase coffee now has a significantly different impact.

Trent University, an institution that embodies ethically-mindful food vendors such as the Seasoned Spoon and The Planet, takes another large step in positive impact. OPIRG is a campus-based, community-oriented, non-profit organization committed to research, social justice and environmental issues.

For information on volunteer opportunities, free market giveaways, and food cupboards, visit their website at http://www.opirgpeterborough.ca/