Book Review: Fair Food

Fair Trade Trailblazer Leshaun Warner shares her thoughts about the book Fair Food.

Hesterman, O. B. (2011). Fair food: growing a healthy, sustainable food system for all. New York: PublicAffairs. 290 pages. ISBN: 978-1-61039-006-4.

Oran B. Hesterman’s book, Fair Food, is a book that aims to foster the creation of a redesigned food system, one that is healthy for people, communities, and the environment. After discovering a good diet was able to soothe the symptoms of a disease he suffers from; Hesterman passion for good food was ignited. He devoted his entire career to ensure that good food was available and affordable for everyone. Hesterman has been in a variety of different careers to help educate and push for more sustainable food practices. He was a professor of agronomy at Michigan State University. While there he was also a consultant to the W.K Kellogg Foundation and later left academia to work as a full-time program director at the foundation. However, he saw that there was a hug problem with the food system in America. Hesterman left Kellogg to start Fair Food Network, a new institution committed to building a more just and sustainable food system.

Hesterman’s book outlines the problems of our current broken food system, gives solution to redesigning it, and provides a practical guide to how we can get involved in the cause. While there are many broken systems in America which are education, health care, energy, and the financial system redesigning our food system is key to help solving the rest. In order to comprehend how to fix a broken system you must first recognize what is wrong with it. Why the current system is no longer working and the difficulties that it’s producing. After we understand that we can move forward to finding the principles a fair food system should have. A Fair Food system should allow everyone to have equal access to healthy, safe, and fresh food. A system that is diverse from the food we grow to how we grow them and also diverse in economic and ownership structures. Lastly, a fair food system must be environmentally sustainable and economically viable. Then we must take action and like Hesterman’s said shift from a conscious consumers to engaged citizens.

Hesterman’s book has truly opened my eyes to the current situation of our food system. Although it is not a book completely about Fair Trade it is very much relevant to the movement. To truly comprehend the Fair Trade movement and what it is trying to accomplish you must understand the state of our current food system. Our food system is failing so many individuals and causing so many problems that no one is addressing. Hesterman’s book not only seeks to address those problems but also provide ways for anyone to get involved in the cause.

Review prepared by Leshaun Warner, Fair Trade Intern

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Fall 2013 Introduction

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! A new semester has commenced at Penn State Brandywine and the torched had been passed to further promote and raise awareness about the Fair Trade Movement. It is with great excitement that I begin to embark on this journey to advocate the need of Fair Trade on the Brandywine campus, within the local community, and to whomever may come across this blog.

However, I do believe introductions are in order, my name is Leshaun Warner and I will be the Fair Trade intern for Fall 2013. I am currently a senior at Penn State Brandywine majoring in Communications Arts and Science with a minor in Business. During this fall semester I will be taking over the duties of posting to the Penn State Brandywine’s Fair Trade blog and other social media platforms.

I became interested in Fair Trade because everyone deserves the right to be justly compensated for the services or goods they produce. Many people in developing countries are taken advantage of and are unable to provide for themselves or their families. Those products are then sold in the U.S, products that you and I buy, products that support an unjust system. A system where children do not go to school but instead they go to work, a system where people work in hazardous environments with no health benefits, a system where communities are disintegrating. By supporting Fair Trade products you are helping to improve people’s lives by simply choosing to purchase one brand over another. As we embarked on this journey I hope that we can further this movement to greater heights so that we can ensure fair treatment to all.

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– Contributed by Fair Trade Intern, Leshaun Warner

Fall 2013 Farewell Post

storypeople_connectionAs the fall semester gets underway, my time as the summer intern is coming to a close.  This will be my last post as the official fair trade intern.  I enjoyed updating the Penn State Brandywine fair trade blog and social media sites over the summer, and I look forward to taking part in the fair trade events that are going to be taking place on campus this school year.  Be sure to check this blog, as well as our Facebook and Twitter to receive updates on upcoming events.  I am handing over the fair trade internship to Leshaun Warner, who I know will do an excellent job as the fall semester intern.

On the 26th, I will be leaving to spend time as an undergraduate research assistant in Borneo, Indonesia.  I will be volunteering for seven weeks with the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project (OuTrop) and earning course credit as a Penn State Brandywine student.  While I’m away, I’ll be keeping my eyes open for fair trade related products.  I also hope to gain firsthand insight on the environmental and social challenges facing developing countries, challenges which fair trade attempts to alleviate.

I encourage all Penn State Brandywine students to not only consider becoming a Fair Trade Trailblazer but to take advantage of the opportunities that only occur at a smaller campus.  I do not think that I would be having the opportunity to earn Penn State credit in Borneo as an undergrad if I had not attended Penn State Brandywine.  I wish the Fair Trade Trailblazers the best of luck and I look forward to continuing my involvement with the campus fair trade program when I return.

Contributed by Fair Trade Intern Megan Draper

“You Can’t Wake a Person Who’s Pretending to Sleep”

The more I have learned about fair trade, the more I have realized how complicated global supply systems really are.  I have also realized how difficult it is to purchase truly ethical products, because a product that is “good” in one way may be “bad” in another way (e.g. is a product both socially and environmentally sound?).  This TED Talk explains some of the issues associated with unsustainable products and realistic solutions.  I recommend it to everyone, and yes, watch the entire video.

This TED Talk (“Jason Clay: How big brands can help save biodiversity”) mentions 15 Key Commodities related to the loss of biodiversity. These commodities are: palm oil, cotton, biofuels, sugarcane, pulp & paper, sawn wood, dairy, beef, soy, fish oil & meal, farmed salmon, farmed shrimp, tuna, tropical shrimp, and whitefish.  I have a particular interest in palm oil, for reasons that I will explain in another post; however, I am also interested in how fair trade could be applied to the 15 commodities and how fair trade could fit into the framework described in the video (if you have any ideas, please add them to the comments section).  Environmental sustainability is a crucial aspect of any system that will be fair in the long run, as this article rather direly outlines.

There are many things I love about this TED video, but I want to focus on the ones that I think are most applicable to fair trade.  The video discusses shifting the entire supply chain of the 15 commodities by focusing on the top 100 companies that control 25% of the trade of these commodities (for the full picture and details watch the video).  It will be difficult, but I think this could work for sustainability.  Could the same concepts be used for fair trade?  Could a more socially fair system be implemented at the same time as an environmentally sustainable system for the 15 products?

One of the things I love most about the video is that Jason Clay is not afraid to say that we, as consumers, should be paying the true price for our products.  I could not agree more, but I have found in my own experience that many people balk at fair trade because “it costs too much,” or “I can get the same product for less if it isn’t fair trade.”  Excuses like this ignore the very real social and environmental, as well as economic, costs of our consumerism.

This leads to another point made in the video, that sustainability needs to be an integral part of the global trade system, not a choice.  I agree, and I also think that social equity needs to be a part of the system, and not a choice on the part of the consumer.  I know, for example, that I have bought plenty of unsustainable and non-fair trade cotton shirts; wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where all cotton was fair and sustainable?  I know for sure that I do not have all the answers (but perhaps you have some, please comment if you do) but what I have realized is that we all have to stop pretending to be asleep.

Contributed by Fair Trade Intern Megan Draper

Summer 2013 Introduction

StoryPeople Making a World

Before I start writing the posts for Penn State Brandywine’s fair trade blog this summer, I thought I should introduce myself.  My name is Megan Draper and I will be the fair trade intern for Summer 2013.  I am a senior at Penn State Brandywine and a psychology major.  My goal is to pursue a career in primatology (the study of nonhuman primates), which is one of the reasons I have become interested in fair trade.  Although equity and social justice are the primary (and important!) motivators of a fair trade system, environmental concerns are also weighed when a product is deemed “fair trade.”  For most primate species to survive in the wild during the coming decades, the sustainability of human food systems is a must, and fair trade is one way to improve food production.  Despite my initial interest through primatology, the more I learned about fair trade, the more I became passionate about fair trade in and of itself.  I hope to share what I find particularly important about fair trade through this blog, and I hope to hear from you in the comments and on our PSU Brandywine Fair Trade Facebook and Twitter.

Contributed by Fair Trade Intern Megan Draper

A TrailBlazer’s Farewell Post

After a year of interning for the Laboratory for Civic Engagement and the Fair Trade Trailblazers, the time has come for me to pass on the torch of justice to the summer fair trade intern, Megan Draper.

The experiences that I have had working for the Laboratory, for Dr. Guertin and David Rosenberg, have taught me some of the most important and challenging lessons. Through the course of my internship, I was able to organize a fundraiser from scratch, a goal that I had been aspiring to accomplish since the very beginning of my college career.

The path to hosting such an event involved a vast series of obstacles, as I learned to consider the more practical aspects of charity work. For instance, being flexible and open to change were the two biggest lessons that I garnered. After spending months planning the Fresh Artists event, Hurricane Sandy unexpectedly came along during the week of the event, bringing all my plans to a screeching halt. It all worked out in the end, though, when a short conversation revamped the entire event, making it more successful than ever! We were able to get students from The Walden School involved, and we not only collected enough money to make a significant contribution to Fresh Artists, but also were able to spread awareness on the fair trade movement.

It was amazing to get involved with people in the local community and to work with everyone to discuss ways to combat human trafficking and unethical labor practices. Of course, my journey does not end here. This internship has given me just the foundation I needed to embark on my own journey to further promote global social justice issues.

I leave today with the powerful words of Anne Frank:

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— Contributed by Fair Trade Intern, Labanya Mookerjee

5th Annual Fair Trade Calendar Photo Contest

An announcement from our friends at the Fair Trade Resource Network!

We welcome you to participate in the 5th annual Fair Trade Calendar Photo Contest!  Educate about Fair Trade, or help spread the word about your business or organization and the beauty of Fair Trade.  Enter photos from producer or consumer countries. The 12 winning Fair Trade photos will be featured in our 2014 Fair Trade Calendar.

1) Submit Photos (June 7-26, 2013)

  1. Read contest Guidelines/Eligibility for details on qualifying, specifications, etc.
  2. Email each photo, with a caption up to 50 words , to photocontest@ftrn.org
  3. Pay submission fee of $10/photo at FTRN’s Online Store

2) Vote for Photos (June 27 – July 9, 2013)

Vote online, with a link announced here June 27, for your favorites. The 12 winning photos will be featured each month in the 2014 Fair Trade Calendar. Over 2300 people voted for their favorite photos in last year’s contest!

To learn more about the Fair Trade Calendar Photo Contest, visit http://www.fairtraderesource.org/link-up/photo-contest/ or email photocontest@ftrn.org