People tend to feel guilty when eating chocolate but the campus bookstore might just rid some of the shame. The campus store has been providing Cabrini students, faculty and staff with Fair Trade chocolate for the past three years. The Washington D.C.-based Fair Trade Federation’s website defines the goal of Fair Trade to “create tremendous, positive, and long-term impact for artisans and farmers while delivering great products to the public.”
According to store manager Michele Conroy it all started when a student doing an article on Fair Trade for the Loquitur brought up the idea.
“It was really student interest. We always like suggestions,” Conroy said.
Conroy bolted into action and looked at what she could offer her customers. The bookstore’s parent company, Follett Higher Education Group, had already been selling Fair Trade chocolate for years at that point and Conroy took it upon herself to bring it in.
“It was a bonus that we were fulfilling something that was socially responsible but also a student request on campus as well,” Conroy said.
“In recent years, people have been much more aware of the power that they have,” Carmen Iezzi, executive director of the Fair Trade Federation, said. “We’ve definitely seen an increase in interest in supporting Fair Trade.”
Interest in this social rights movement is on the rise but Fair Trade itself has been around for more than half a century.
“For 60 years, Fair Trade organizations have been offering a wide variety of products that people use in their everyday lives,” Iezzi said.
The price of a Divine White Chocolate Fair Trade bar at the bookstore, at $3.99, is a higher price compared to the $1 candy in the vending machine down the hall but according to Iezzi, it is not a safe comparison.
“One of the challenges is if you try to compare a gourmet quality product to a lower quality product. Higher quality chocolate costs more in theory,” Iezzi said.
Despite the high cost of chocolate for consumers, Iezzi observes the public opinion on Fair Trade products as positive.
“People are starting to consider how a product goes from the point of origin to the table.”
Students seem to agree that good quality is worth the cost.
“I like chocolate. If the quality of taste is better I wouldn’t mind paying $4 for chocolate,” John Crouse, sophomore business administration major, said.
“It wouldn’t be an everyday thing but if I was in the mood for really good chocolate, I’d buy it,” Crouse said.
“I think it’ll be more convenient for students to buy Fair Trade chocolate. It’s right at their finger tips. Students can’t use the excuse that ‘it’s too far out of my way to eat Fair Trade,’” Jamie Tadrzynski, junior history and education major and secretary of CRS Ambassadors club, said.
The bookstore is not the only location where one can find Fair Trade products. Often times students can find a Fair Trade storefront in their hometown’s business district.
“Lots of communities have local stores that strive to only source to Fair Trade principals,” Iezzi said.
Despite the raised awareness of Fair Trade in the past couple of years, Cabrini students still question how many of their peers know what the movement is all about.
“People don’t know what Fair Trade is,” Ben Danner, sophomore biology major, said.
When it comes to educating students, Conroy partially credits the Loquitur.
“I think it definitely helps when an article comes out in the paper,” Conroy said, adding that she takes pride in her company’s attitude towards fair labor.
“We’re a very social conscious company. I don’t think it was something new to Follett. Follett is big on fair labor standards and it is met throughout the organization. The products are an expansion of that,” Conroy said.
When it comes to Fair Trade, Iezzi has high expectations for Cabrini.
“We hope that the chocolate in the bookstore is only the beginning. We hope that the bookstore will think about and students push them to think about the many opportunities of Fair Trade,” Iezzi said.
Iezzi’s optimism of Fair Trade is balanced with reality of the movement’s potential.
“We have a bright future, but we still have work to do. I think part of it is how Americans are thinking about their products. I think we don’t ask enough questions about where our products come from,” Iezzi said.