Ryan Chartrand

With less than a month left until Christmas, many are struggling to figure out what to buy friends and family members. The Cal Poly Fair Trade Club is offering a suggestion: coffee – and a little piece of mind.

Since Nov. 15, the Cal Poly Fair Trade Club has sold its holiday gift packs, a cellophane-wrapped package full of LaDonna’s Coffee Co. fair trade coffee and fair trade sugar from the Philippines plus a latte mug sporting the club’s logo for $20. Today from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. the club will continue to sell the packs at Campus Market and El Corral Bookstore. Proceeds will go to purchasing three $500 industrial scales for three different cooperatives in the Ivory Coast that club adviser and food science and nutrition associate professor Tom Neuhaus said is vital to the African farmers.

“A way to help the farmers is to give them (items) that will help their business, and one of those things is a scale,” Neuhaus said. “If they can weigh the beans themselves, they won’t get ripped off by the middle man.”

Melissa Schilling, an agriculture graduate student and outgoing club president, formed the Fair Trade Club as part of her senior project in January to help raise awareness about fairness and equality in the food industry through fair trade. Fair trade ensures farmers and plantation workers safe work conditions, fair pricing for goods and labor.

Other items the club is working to provide for Ivory Coast farmers are solar-powered freezers, which Neuhaus said will allow the farmers to sell other goods such as juices. Providing the farmers with boots is also a goal for the club.

“Boots are important because there are snakes that are poisonous in the fields. (Farmers) and children who get bit die because the clinics are so far,” Neuhaus explained. “The idea is to help them get these things they can’t afford because with these tools they can have a chance at a better quality of life.”

According to Global Exchange, a membership-based international human rights organization, the Ivory Coast provides 43 percent of the world’s cocoa. Furthermore, 70 percent of chocolate consumed in America is from the Ivory Coast, which is why it’s so important for the club to raise money to help those farmers, Schilling and Neuhaus said

“We want to support the farmers who provide the chocolates for us so cheaply in the United States,” Schilling said.

The club began selling T-shirts and coffee for three cooperatives in Cameroon, Ghana and the Ivory Coast earlier this year and was able to raise about $1,000, Schilling said. This quarter, with the great start of their sale two weeks ago, Schilling is optimistic that they club will reach its goal of $2,000.

“A lot of people know what fair trade is, which is great – and in about four hours we had about 50 customers,” she said, referring to the club’s first sale Nov. 15 that generated $100.

A portion of the money raised by the club will also go to the Kenesch Project, which helps provide schooling for Ivorian children of cocoa farmers in Galebre, Ivory Coast.

In addition to the gift packs, the club is also selling coffee by the cup, “homemade” cookies by Cal Poly students in Neuhaus’s chocolate lab on campus, club T-shirts and 1 pound coffee bags that can be purchased separately. The last day to purchase the gift packs this quarter will be Thursday from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Campus Market and El Corral. The holiday gift packs are also available at Cafe Luna, Splash Cafe and the SLO Yoga Centre in San Luis Obispo.

But for coffee lovers who want to continue to support the club’s efforts, Schilling said there is no need to worry because the club plans to sell the packs – whether called holiday gift packs or not – throughout the academic year in order to make donations over summer 2006.

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