When classes adjourn here at the Fayerweather Street School, eighth-graders ignore the mall down the street and go straight to the place they consider much cooler: the local natural-foods grocer’s. There, they gather in groups of ten or more sometimes, smitten by a marketing atmosphere that links attractiveness to eating well. When time comes to buy something even as small as a chocolate treat, they feel good knowing a farmer somewhere probably received a good price. “Food is something you need to stay alive,” says eighth-grader Emma Lewis. “Paying farmers well is really important because if we didn’t have any unprocessed food, we’d all be living on candy.”
Eating morally, as some describe it, is becoming a priority for teenagers as well as adults in their early 20s. What began a decade ago as a concern on college campuses to shun clothing made in overseas sweatshops has given birth to a parallel phenomenon in the food and beverage industries. Here, youthful shoppers are leveraging their dollars in a bid to reduce pesticide usage, limit deforestation, and make sure farmers are not left with a pittance on payday. Once again, college campuses are setting the pace. Students at 30 colleges have helped persuade administrators to make sure all cafeteria coffee comes with a “Fair Trade” label, which means bean pickers in Latin America and Africa were paid higher than the going rates. Their peers on another 300 campuses are pushing to follow suit, according to Students United for Fair Trade in Washington, D.C.
Coffee is just the beginning. Bon Appetit, an institutional food-service provider based in California, relies on organic and locally grown produce. In each year since 2001, more than 25 colleges have asked the company to bid on their food-service contracts. Though Bon Appetit intentionally limits its growth, its collegiate client list has grown from 58 to 71 in that period. “It’s really just been in the last five years that we’ve seen students become concerned with where their food was coming from,” says Maisie Ganzler, Bon Appetit’s director of strategic initiatives. “Prior to that, students were excited to be getting sugared cereal.”
To reach a younger set that often does not drink coffee, Fair Trade importer Equal Exchange rolled our a line of cocoa in 2003 and chocolate bars in 2004. Profits in both sectors have justified the project, says Equal Exchange co-president Hob Everts. What is more, dozens of schools have contacted the firm to use its products in fundraisers and as classroom teaching, tools. “Kids often are the ones who agitate in the family’” for recycling and other eco-friendly practices, Mr. Everts says. “So, it’s a ripe audience.”
Concerns of today’s youthful food shoppers seem to reflect in some ways the idealism that inspired prior generations to join boycotts in solidarity with farm workers. Today’s efforts are distinct in that youthful consumers say they do not want to make sacrifices. They want high-quality, competitively priced goods that do not require exploitation of workers or the environment. They will gladly reward companies that deliver. One activist who shares this sentiment and hears it repeatedly from her peers is Summer Rayne Oakes, a recent college graduate and fashion model who promotes stylish Fair Trade clothing. “I’m not going to buy something that can’t stand on its own or looks bad just because it’s socially responsible,” Ms. Oakes says. “My generation has come to terms with the fact that we’re all consumers, and we all buy something. So, if I do have to buy food, what are the consequences?”
Wanting to ameliorate the world’s big problems can be frustrating, especially for those who feel ineffective because they are young. Marketers are figuring out that teenagers resent this feeling of powerlessness and are pushing products that make young buyers feel as though they are making a difference, says Michael Wood, vice president of Teenage Research Unlimited. His example: Ethos Water from Starbucks, which contributes five cents from every bottle sold to water-purification centres in developing countries. “This is a very easy way for young people to contribute. All they have to do is buy bottled water,” Mr. Wood says. “Buying products or supporting companies that give them ways to support global issues is one way for them to get involved, and they really appreciate that.”
Convenience is also driving consumer activism. Joe Curnow, national coordinator of United Students for Fair Trade, says she first got involved about five years ago as a high schooler when she spent time hanging out in cafes. Buying coffee with an eco-friendly label “was a very easy way for me to express what I believed in”, she says. For young teens, consumption is their first foray into activism. At the Fayerweather Street School, Emma Lewis teamed up with classmates Kayla Kleinman and Therese LaRue to sell Fair Trade chocolate, cocoa, and other products at a school fundraiser in November. When the tally reached $8,000, they realised they were striking a chord.
Some adults hasten to point out the limitations of ethical consumption as a tool for doing good deeds and personal growth. Gary Lindsay, director of Children’s Ministries, encourages Fair Trade purchases, but he also organises children to collect toys for foster children and save coins for a playground-construction project in Tanzania. He says it helps them learn to enjoy helping others even when they are not getting anything tangible in return. “When we’re benefiting, how much are we really giving? Is it really sacrifice?” Mr. Lindsay asks of Fair Trade products, he says: “Those things are great when we’re given opportunities like that once in a while, but I think for us to expect that we should get something out of everything we do is a very selfish attitude to have.”
Choose the correct letter A, B or C.
27. Trying to change the world through what people purchase began with
28. Bon Appetit had_______colleges using its services in 2006.
29. Buying Ethos Water helps provide money for
A poor people in Africa.
B poor farmers.
C clean water projects.
30. Joe Curnow first got involved with consumer activism through buying
Complete the following sentences using NO MORE THAN ONE WORD from the text for each answer.
Eighth-graders from Fayerweather Street School go to the natural-foods grocer’s rather than the (31)………….
Bon Appetit limits its growth (32)…………………
Previously, young generations were (33)…………………to make sacrifices.
Young people can feel frustrated and (34)……………..because of their age.
Gary Lindsay (35)………………….people to buy products that make use of Fair Trade.
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage? In boxes 36 – 40 write:
TRUE if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this
36. Fair Trade coffee is more expensive than usual coffee.
37. Bon Appetit used to sell sugared cereal.
38. Rob Everts thinks that kids do not understand about protecting the environment.
39. Summer Rayne Oakes will wear clothes that do not look so good as long as they promote Fair Trade.
40. Gary Lindsay thinks people should do more than just consume ethically.