The Fair Trade s’more event at Penn State Brandywine, Global Exchange’s We Want More from Our S’mores, was a huge success! As we continue on our journey as a Fair Trade University, we have worked all summer toward raising awareness of the Fair Trade movement on campus, specifically with the staff and faculty. On August 16, 2012, we hosted an event where campus and community members could come to campus to make a Fair Trade s’more and hear about the challenges in the cocoa industry. Be sure to read about the lead up to our event and the resulting success! We hope that our experience can help other campuses learn how to best host a Fair Trade s’more event!
For starters, we consulted the Global Exchange website and found their step-by-step checklist for setting up a s’more event. This was very helpful! But there were some other considerations we had to make, especially doing this event on a college campus in the summer.
Here are a few of the important lessons we learned about hosting a s’more event on campus:
- Get permission first! We CANNOT stress this enough! Our campus does not have any fire pits or grills. We checked with the director of business services on campus to see if we could have permission to toast marshmallows (we saw instructions online on how to soften marshmallows in the microwave, but we knew it would not be the same). We received permission to use a propane grill outdoors in an open area, as long as campus security was present with a fire extinguisher the entire time (and he was!). The propane grill did not have the “flame” that is typically associated with making s’mores, but the marshmallows did get soft and gooey! Be sure to check with the appropriate office on campus to see when, where, and how you can make s’mores.
- Get the word out. As the We Want More from Our S’mores campaign ran from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the timing made it difficult to get many students involved, but a great opportunity to get faculty and staff on board. We used our campus’s social media sites our own social media sites, and sent an announcement to our local town’s Fair Trade committee. We also emailed the faculty and staff email lists on campus to reach the people we knew would be around in the summer, and we sent specific invitations to campus administrators and alumni. It worked! We had 40 people in attendance, with a great mix of faculty, staff, and some students that were on campus that day.
- Have a RSVP form, but only use it as an estimate. We sent out a link to our online RSVP form in our emails and social media sites, so we could figure out how much food to purchase. We had 25 people fill out our online RSVP form, but as I just stated, 40 people showed up! Once word of mouth started spreading around campus about the event, we think people decided close to the date of the event to attend, and by that point, forgot about the RSVP. And of the people that did RSVP, approximately 10 of them did not attend. So although the RSVP form was a great idea, it did not exactly help with our planning (see our next point….) But we certainly didn’t mind the overflow of people, because the more we can reach out to, the better!
- Purchase more ingredients than the RSVP says you will need. Because we had more people show up than responded to the invitation, we were relieved we bought extra ingredients! And, we saw some people randomly chomping down on giant marshmallows and chocolate, in more of a deconstructed s’more form, which was fine by us!
- Think about jazzing up your s’mores with additional ingredients. We also purchased Fair Trade bananas from Whole Foods and organic strawberries, which allowed us the opportunity to show the Fair Trade logo to attendees, to let them know where to purchase these food items, themselves, and to discuss the developing Domestic Fair Trade certification movement (since there are no Fair Trade strawberries at this time).
- Choose a good time, overlap with the lunch hour. We set our event at 12:30PM-1:30PM, so that people could eat their lunch first and then come over for a s’more. This also worked well for staff/faculty that were in lunchtime meetings from Noon-1PM. We had many people come at different times in the hour, and we didn’t finish cleaning up until 2PM. So don’t be concerned if you don’t have a large group right when you begin, as people will filter in during the event.
- Include an education component. We gave a short talk about what is going on with child slave labor in the cocoa industry, letting people know which chocolate companies are Fair Trade, which ones are making progress, and which ones have much progress that still needs to be made.
- Include an advocacy component. We had several copies of the Global Exchange petition for the Raise the Bar campaign. By having multiple copies around the area we hosted the event, we were able to fill three pages with signatures. This allowed people to not only learn about Fair Trade chocolate, but to get involved by making their voice heard.
- Take lots of photos, and share the results. We took pictures and tweeted them during the event and posted a collection of photos in our flickr account after the s’more fest. It’s a great way to document what we did and to share the results with others. We hope the conversation continues and people are inspired to try their own event after seeing and reading what we did!
Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin