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Local

Coffee concept at NIU promises to benefit growers

DeKALB - Clare Kron doesn't mind if you drink out of a Starbucks cup - as long as you know the whole story behind the beans used to brew it. Kron, 58, is a senior at Northern Illinois University and has been supporting the Fair Trade coffee movement for more than a decade. She now wants to spread her knowledge to the next generation at NIU. Beginning this week, students and faculty will be able to purchase Equal Exchange brand Fair Trade Certified coffee at two snack bars on campus in Founders Library and the Holmes Student Center. Coffee drinkers still will be able to purchase their old favorites, but Kron is hoping to convert through information. "With names like Starbucks, people get used to drinking their one drink and there is cultural branding," she said. "I'm hoping that the moral side of this would overcome the cultural ties that many people have." The Fair Trade Movement began in the 1950s, Kron said, but only recently has taken hold in the United States. Fair Trade coffee refers to the trading partnership between producers and buyers that allows farmers to receive a higher profit for high quality, organic goods in comparison to lower-grade commercial coffee. On average, a Fair Trade producer receives $1.31 per pound of coffee, and a commercial coffee producer will receive 45 cents per pound, according to Kron. By removing such aspects as marketing and packaging, Fair Trade producers receive more income, giving many Third-World communities an opportunity to build schools and improve infrastructure. "Fair Trade helps farmers have sustainable income," Kron said. "It is based on mutual respect." In February, Kron decided to act on her beliefs and approached the university's food service directors about the idea of offering Fair Trade coffee. "In my experience, the administration is oftentimes hesitant to listen to the concerns of students, but I got an immediate positive response and a semester later, here we are," she said. "I'm delighted." Six varieties of Fair Trade coffee are offered at the two snack shops on campus during a trial period, in which managers will track the response from the campus community. Kron said she will work on promoting the coffee to students. "The college level is the first level because there have been studies showing that college students like to purchase products that have been made under just circumstances, as long as they know about it," she said. Several volunteers have offered to help promote the coffee, Kron said, by handing out pamphlets and hanging posters throughout the campus. Kron even hopes to give speeches about Fair Trade to residence halls and in classrooms. "I realize I'm starting at the bottom, and that's fine," she said. "We're in the early stages and trying things out, and I'm going to think of everything just to open the public consciousness."

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