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‘Fair Trade Universities’ national conference March 18-20 at WKU

United Students for Fair Trade (USFT) will host its 7th Annual National Convergence March 18-20 at WKU.

This year’s theme is “Igniting a Movement: Fair Trade Universities” and organizers of the three-day conference hope to bring together more than 100 of the nation’s top student leaders working on Fair Trade for a weekend filled with expert panels and workshops focused on Fair Trade and student activism.

“The goal is simple. To empower students with the knowledge and skills they need to launch successful campaigns to ‘Fair Trade’ their high schools and universities,” said Sasha Petroni, USFT’s National Coordinator.

The conference will open with a banquet on March 18 featuring local food, live music and a keynote by Isaac Zuñiga from the COOPAIN Fair Trade Coffee Cooperative in Peru. Zuñiga’s cooperative supplies Fair Trade Certified coffee for Java City, a national chain with cafes at WKU and at other college campuses across the US. Zuñiga will speak first hand about the impact Fair Trade Certification has made on his community in Peru.

This event will launch America’s “Fair Trade Universities” campaign, an initiative that began in the U.K. in 2003. There are now more than 120 Fair Trade Universities around the world including three in the United States. A Fair Trade University or high school commits to raise awareness among students and staff about Fair Trade and the benefits it offers to producers in developing countries, while ensuring that Fair Trade products are sold and served at university owned and operated outlets.

Petroni and other conference organizers hope to use this gathering as a launching pad to increase the number of Fair Trade Universities in the United States. “Right now there are only three official Fair Trade Universities here in America,” Petroni said. “But we know there are plenty more university and high school groups working on Fair Trade. We just need to reach out to these students, connect them with others and give them the skills they need to succeed. Our convergence intends to do just that.”

Other highlights of the conference will include a panel on the real world impacts of Fair Trade with Dr. Sarah Lyon, Fair Trade researcher and co-editor of “Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies”; a video presentation on “The State of the Fair Trade Movement” by Jeff Goldman of the Fair Trade Resource Network; a Fair Trade Marketplace featuring both local and national Fair Trade businesses; and an international video conference with youth Fair Trade activists from the University of Edinburgh, the third Fair Trade University in the world.

United Students for Fair Trade (USFT) is America’s largest student-run network of affiliates organizing around Fair Trade at high schools and universities across the nation.

Contact: Matt Vaughan, (573) 529-2578.

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