Fair trade finds home in Catholic colleges

From left, Monika Ostrowidzki, Casey Gallagher and Andreia Marcuccio promote Siena Students for Fair Trade at a college-wide club fair in September 2013 at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y. (Shannon O'Neill)

Catholic colleges and universities are leading a growing trend of fair trade involvement in the U.S. More than half of the country's fair trade schools are Catholic-affiliated, with more schools close to achieving fair trade status on the way.

"We've essentially been on a path of doubling each year," Parker Townley, national organizer of the Fair Trade Colleges and Universities branch of Fair Trade Campaigns, told NCR. "If we can continue on that path I would be overjoyed."

Currently, 14 out of the 25 colleges and universities that have achieved fair trade status from Fair Trade Campaigns are Catholic.

The Fair Trade Campaigns organization, whose leaders include a number of students and faculty, spreads the use of more than 80 fair trade products, such as coffee, tea, sugar, fruit and cotton. They award fair trade status to towns, congregations, schools and universities.

When a product is certified fair trade, it has passed a process of checks by Fair Trade USA, an organization that ensures products are bought from farmers at a fair price, contain no genetically modified organisms or hazardous chemicals, and are not made using child labor. For many, buying fair trade products is a way to support human rights and social justice in places like South America, where labor for a livable wage is not always honored.

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This story appeared in the Nov 7-20, 2014 print issue under the headline: Fair trade finds home in Catholic colleges .

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