Students push for sustainability at second annual national Food Day
Published: Friday, October 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
As part of the second annual national Food Day, students from The Sustainability Institute, Net Impact and the Center for International Education at UNH co-hosted an event aimed to raise awareness about a sustainable future.
During the event, participants from each of the student organizations facilitated a discussion with peers and community members about the importance of sustainability in an increasingly vulnerable environment.
Propelling the discussion was Rob Everts, co-founder of Equal Exchange, who discussed the company’s business model that works to educate consumers, support small farmers and establish sustainable farming methods.
Equal Exchange was founded in 1986 after three young, idealistic employees at a food co-op recognized the lack of information available about where food products are grown.
“They realized that consumers were disengaged and uninformed,” Everts said. “Unlike past generations, people have become disconnected with their food source.”
As the men began actively engaging in the issue, they found a discrepancy in the entire food system, where chronic poverty, marginalization of small farmers and destruction of natural habitats were widespread.
“A radical response was required for a more sustainable and equal system,” Everts said.
The company entered the market through coffee grown in Nicaragua and has since expanded its product line to chocolate, tea, cocoa, olive oil, bananas and almonds from small-scale farms around the world.
The company has developed a niche in a well-established market and has been steadily increasing its revenues over the past two decades.
Large corporations that were hesitant to follow suit have recently begun to introduce at least one product to their shelves including, Ben & Jerry’s, Starbucks, Wal-Mart and Dunkin’ Donuts.
“Consumers are investing in fair trade goods for the social return,” Everts said.
According to Everts, Equal Exchange has witnessed huge benefits as a direct result of their business model.
“Farmer’s have been able to stay on their land instead of leaving to search for low-wage jobs. Communities are intact that otherwise would not have been if the farmers didn’t have viable buyers,” Everts said.
In an attempt to raise awareness about similar business prototypes, UNH students have recently become active in spreading the word and stimulating conversations about business models similar to Equal Exchange.
Andrea Dow, vice president of business operations for Net Impact, noted that the discussion led by Everts directly related to the group’s main goal, which is to promote students to pursue careers with an emphasis on people, planet and profit.
“We want to bring exemplarily business models to campus that we can aspire to be and ultimately become,” Dow said. “Net Impact believes that your passion doesn’t have to be your hobby.”
Members of the UNH Slow Food group were also tabling at the event. The group works to preserve and revitalize food culture on campus through education, celebration and outreach.
“National Food Day is being celebrated at over 250 colleges and universities; now UNH is one of them,” said Danielle Zamarchi, president of the Slow Food club.