The average modern supermarket carries more than 47,000 items, according to the documentary Food, Inc. No wonder grocery shopping can be a daunting experience for those who are trying to consume in accordance with their values. As much as you would like to visit the farms that grew all your food personally, it’s impossible.
Instead, conscientious consumers rely on third-party-certified labeling programs such as organic, which reassures us that those products were grown without toxic pesticides or using genetically engineered seeds, and Certified Humane, which tells us that the animals we’re eating were raised ethically. But neither of those labels tells us anything about how the people behind the products were treated.
That’s why the Fair Trade Certified™ label is so important. October is Fair Trade month, and we at Bon Appétit Management Company are proud to have partnered with Fair Trade USA to help raise awareness.
Fair Trade USA certifies coffee, tea and herbs, cocoa, fresh fruit and vegetables, sugar, dried beans and grains, flowers, nuts, oils and butters, honey and spices, wine, and apparel produced in the United States. By “certifies,” we mean they audit the companies that grow or make these products to ensure they comply with Fair Trade standards. These standards are designed to give farmers fair prices, workers safe conditions (including regulating pesticide use), and by collecting premiums as percentage of sales, to benefit entire developing communities.
At Bon Appétit, we believe that workers in other industries and other countries deserve the same rights and protections that our own chefs, line cooks, and front-of-the-house staff enjoy. That’s why we’ve gotten involved in farmworker advocacy, partnering with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers on a Code of Conduct for our Florida tomato growers in 2009 and coauthoring a 65-page report on the state of farmworker treatment in America, released in March 2011. And why we’re proud to be the lead sponsor of a special TEDx conference focusing on farmworkers and labor issues, on October 14 called TEDxFruitvale: Harvesting Change.
That’s also why we care about Fair Trade. On Valentine’s Day this year, we announced that Cordillera Fair Trade Certified™ baking chocolate would be available companywide. All year around, various Bon Appétit cafés around the country not only bake with Cordillera, but also offer Fair Trade items such as coffee, bananas, and chocolate. We’ll be spotlighting some of those products this month.
We’re also very excited to announce that we’re extending our Fair Trade commitments beyond the plate this month. We’ve launched a pilot program to supply Fair Trade Certified™ shirts to student employees in two of our university cafés; if all goes well, in 2012, we’ll offer them front-of-the-house employees in other Bon Appétit Management Company cafés. Managers will be able to choose Fair Trade aprons and shirts in a variety of colors, and with a slogan that reads, “Organic, Fair Trade…This Uniform is Ethically Delicious!”
Because to us, who made your shirt is just as important as who grew your strawberry — and who picked it. We are all connected, and we have a responsibility to workers everywhere to show them that their labor is valued as much as the products we purchase.
Fair Trade USA has some inspiring short videos about why Fair Trade matters, and what you can do.
- Students: Bring Fair Trade to Your University [video] or learn more about Fair Trade Universities here
- Student video about Fair Trade Apparel
- The Power of the Consumer