In mid-May, Equal Exchange, together with our friends at Root Capital, brought together six coffee farmer cooperatives for two days of self diagnostics and collaborative strategic planning in Jaltenango, Chiapas, Mexico.
Cooperation among cooperatives is the sixth international cooperative principle. Few organizations can lay a stronger claim to putting it into action than Equal Exchange. Since our founding 31 years ago, our very mission, organizational model, and business practices are lived out in adherence to this core value.
Edith Stacey-Huber is passionate about food. She is the creator of the food buying club Authentic Provisions just outside of Ann Arbor, Mich. Authentic Provisions aims to reconnect people in the community to the food, land and farmers who sustain them, through collective purchasing outside of the corporate food system. Edith is also a member of the Equal Exchange Action Forum and will be presenting at our upcoming People’s Food System Summit on June 9-10.
At the beginning of April, the world’s largest coffee conglomerate, JAB Holdings, bought Panera Bread and its 2,000 cafés across the U.S. You may not know JAB by name, but the Luxembourg-based holding company has been the biggest player in the industry since 2015. This nesting dolls effect – a brand being swallowed up by bigger and bigger companies, distorting what was once familiar – isn’t just a trend in coffee. It’s happening all over in the food industry.
Today is International Workers Day, also known as May Day, which has roots in U.S. history, but is barely recognized here as it is officially in 66 other countries and unofficially in many more. Yet we owe our eight hour work day and five day work week, among other labor protections, to the 300,000 men, women and children who walked off their jobs on May 1, 1886, to protest their working conditions and lack of power in the growing capitalist industrial system, of which their labor was a necessary part.
In the lead up to May Day, we would like to share the voice of a worker in the food service industry. As you will hear, profits in this industry are often at the expense of exploited workers. We wish to support the hopes and aspirations of food workers too often invisible to consumers, from those who harvest the crops to those so critical to the success of the restaurant and fast food industries.
As an Organizer for the Action Forum I see myself as a dot connector to help facilitate building an even bigger community with our customers and allies. Despite the system’s power to commodify every aspect of our lives, including our abilities to connect with one another, here we have the opportunity to create something anew.
With Earth Day approaching, we thought we’d give one example of small-scale farmers who are experiencing the effects of a changing climate. Our cashew partner in El Salvador, APRAINORES, is a small group that has been consistently smacked by climate change and other difficulties.
How can citizen-consumers come together as a political, thinking community? What can we learn from past efforts to reform the food system, and from the current efforts of others involved in the movement for food justice? Equal Exchange has taken the step to create a community of people working together to deepen our collective understanding of these issues and to take actions where strategic, through the creation of the Equal Exchange Action Forum.
Torrential rainfall in Peru has triggered landslides and flooding, causing devastation across large parts of the country, including Lima, Piura, Lambayeque, Tumbes, Cajamarca and Ica. Many communities have been cut off by damaged roads, making access to services very difficult. Equal Exchange has had particularly deep relationships with farmer cooperatives in Piura, dating back 20 years with coffee. Our banana affiliate, Oké USA, also began sourcing bananas from co-ops a decade ago, and more recently we have sourced mangos from the region.