School Tip: Source Fair Trade Products

Courtney Lang April 22, 2015

Work your way through Goal 3


Retail BadgeGoal #3 is about sourcing Fair Trade products in cafeterias, vending machines, school stores or regularly including Fair Trade products in fundraisers like candy or bake sales.  To reach this goal you will need to complete the following:

  • You must have at least two products offered at permanent outlets (cafeteria, cafes, vending machines) OR four products offered at occasional outlets (bake sales, fundraisers, etc.) each year.

The Obstacles

The Solutions

Choosing occasional or permanent outlets
  •  Understand the Goal.  If you choose to work with permanent outlets you must have a total of two Fair Trade products available. If you choose occasional outlets you must have at least four instances per year offering Fair Trade products.
  • Have an informational meeting with your food service manager.  Let them know what Fair Trade is, what you’re doing, what Fair Trade products are available and see if they think it is reasonable to switch two products to Fair Trade.  If yes, work on permanent.  If no, work on occasional.
Sourcing Fair Trade products for Permanent Outlets
  • Work with your food service manager.  Almost every food service provider offers Fair Trade products. For example, Sodexo, a popular food service provider, offers Fair Trade coffee, tea, sugar, rice and cocoa. The same goes for vending machine suppliers. Many schools have vending machine contracts with Coke, who owns the Honest Tea brand, an iced tea made with Fair Trade sugar. The key is that your food service manager needs to specify that they want Fair Trade when they make an order.  Second, look for easy wins with your food service manager like coffee in the teachers lounge, a chocolate bar in the school store, or Honest tea in the vending machine.  After these successes you can garner support for products that are more difficult to work with.
  • Work outside your food service contract.  If these options are not available, work with the school’s purchasers to see what can be purchased outside of these contracts. They may be able to place orders directly for Fair Trade products. Coffee in the teacher’s lounge, or a fair trade chocolate bar from a company like Divine or Equal Exchange would be small, easy additions that would count!
Sourcing Fair Trade for occasional outlets
  • Find occasional outlets.  Your school and its affiliated groups and clubs hold tons of events each year.  Build a relationship with the event organizers and see if they will use or serve Fair Trade products. Think big:  sports teams, student club, PTA, school dances, science fair, etc
  • Help your allies incorporate Fair Trade products.  Most schools have bake sales at one time or another. Bakers can use ingredients like Fair Trade chocolate, sugar or bananas and clearly label Fair Trade products and ingredients.. If your school has a snack bar at sports games they can incorporate Fair Trade chocolate bars, hot chocolate and more. Various school groups will often have fundraisers, and there are many fair trade companies that do fair trade fundraisers. Make sure that each product offered has a sign, label, or some other method to designate to the purchaser that the product is, or contains, fair trade.

Guidelines to help prepare yourself:

The Honest brand uses Fair Trade sugar in their bottled teas and lemonade.

The Honest brand uses Fair Trade sugar in their bottled teas and lemonade.

  • Get to know those responsible for purchasing and work with them. Maybe they’ve never heard of Fair Trade before and don’t understand why it’s important. Maybe they had no idea the school was working to earn Fair Trade status. Help them learn about Fair Trade and form a good working relationship. Then when you’re ready to start requesting products, they will already be knowledgeable and will be more likely to work with someone they know and respect. Listen to their feedback and work with them on their obstacles and challenges.Guidelines to help prepare yourself:
  • Be creative, there are lots of fun ways to incorporate Fair Trade into your school’s activities! Consider events your school already has. Some schools have incorporated Fair Trade products into their Home Ec classes. Try talking with the group responsible for the concession stand at sports events, chilly parents and fans would enjoy a hot cup of Fair Trade coffee or hot chocolate.
  • Work together and delegate. Depending on your school’s structure, there could be many outlets for Fair Trade products, and there could be a different person responsible for ordering products for each one. Having one team member working with each outlet will create working relationships and trust. Everyone will be more organized and things will progress more smoothly.

Check out these resources:

Fair Trade Fundraisers 

Fair Trade Product List

Fair Trade Schools Toolkit

Fair Trade Product Request Cards

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Courtney Lang, National Organizer | Fair Trade Campaigns

Courtney Lang brings over 5 years of community organizing to Fair Trade Towns USA, building both the Local Food and Fair Trade networks in Vermont. As Local Food Coordinator with City Market/Onion River Cooperative, Courtney worked with local producers, institutions and consumers to grow the local food system and organize a strategic model for community engagement through farm tours, workshops, and local food challenges. Like many in the Fair Trade industry, Courtney was inspired to take action in Fair Trade when she witnessed child-labor first hand in Costa Rica. As a founding member of Fair Trade Burlington, she has worked with economic development organizations, businesses, and consumers to build awareness of Fair Trade among Vermonters. She also worked with a Fair Trade USA licensee, Vermont Coffee Company, as Friend Ambassador where she united the story of Fair Trade to every purchase of coffee.