Fair Trade Facts: Fair trade at St. Thomas

Fair trade and the university’s mission

St. Thomas logo

Part of the university’s mission is to
advance the common good. Many on
campus believe this includes supporting
fair trade coffee.

Part of the mission of the University of St. Thomas is to educate students to “work skillfully to advance the common good,” according to the university’ Web site. Part of the common good includes helping those around the world who are disenfranchised. By selling fair trade coffee in university food locations, St. Thomas would demonstrate its commitment to advancing the common good.

Sadly, few locations on campus sell fair trade coffee. Those that do sell only a few options. Food service employees at the university say there are three obstacles to switching to fair trade coffee. These include:

  • Freedom of choice — Switching to fair trade coffee options may limit the number of other coffee products available on campus.
  • Cost — Fair trade coffee usually costs more than non-fair trade coffee. Fair trade coffee would cost about 25 cents more per cup on campus, according to a food service employee. But other colleges and universities, like St. Olaf College, have switched to fair trade despite the prices. St. Olaf sells only fair trade coffee at most of its
    on-campus locations. A 12-ounce cup of Peace Coffee sells for $1.07 at St. Olaf, but a 12-ounce cup of non-fair trade coffee sells for $1.25 at St. Thomas.
  • Availability of fair trade options — Currently, the cafeteria and the Binz use freeze-dried coffee. No fair trade freeze-dried coffee options are available, said the food service employee. Liquid coffee concentrates are available, however. In fact, Cornell University has offered a fair trade liquid coffee since 2004.

In order to set an example for students and follow the university’s mission, St. Thomas should be selling fair trade coffee. To urge the university to start selling fair trade, student groups like ADJUST have formed on campus. It is only through actions like these that
St. Thomas will start to live up to its mission to advance the common good.

© 2006 by Mesa Johnson
E-mail me at mmjohnson2@stthomas.edu