" Before coming to university the idea of LOFT food really had no meaning to me, I didn’t really hear much about it, or think it was something as big as it was. By the end of high-school the idea of fair trade had come about in my one politics class or in my one social justice club meetings but I really never knew fully what it was, what LOFT meant, or why it was as important as it is. By the time I got to university and joined Oxfam all I heard about was LOFT, local organic and fair trade food, but I still didn’t fully know why it was so important, or why my small choices of where I purchase my food or what brands of food I purchase could make any kind of a difference. I also thought that as a university student on a budget I wouldn’t be able to afford all these organic foods or fair trade foods at my grocery store that were more expensive then the rest. It was always just easier to go to metro right by the university and pick up the cheapest products, not thinking about the ethics of it all.
So why is it important than to go LOFT? What does buying fair-trade and local organic foods actually do?
Organic agriculture? What is it, why is it important??
The aim of organic agriculture is to serve mankind in developing sustainable kinds of agriculture, as climate change continues to grow we are continuously looking for ways to reduce the negative impact we have on our world and society and to be able to sustain agriculture to make enough and as good food for everyone. A starting point is a healthy and living soil, the basis for healthy plants and animals. This all aims at creating quality food while still taking care of the environment. As for processing and labelling it would be only fair to not only treat our animals and nature as a vital social justice importance but to also remain consistent with treating small farmers and local farmers from constant exploitation.
This leads into fair trade and its importance as well. The fair trade movement started as a way to call on the injustices of international trade, as it was very much in favour of the industrialized developed countries of the time. Fair trade began to counter this way of trade with criteria for sustainable and fair trading methods.
These two concepts of organic and fair trade food both coexist as ways to prioritize sustainable development for all, taking care of our environment and agriculture, while also maintaining equal rights and protecting local and small businesses from exploitation.
Where does the local part come from?
There are many benefits from buying locally, however also buying from developing countries in a fair trade setting. Locally buying can create many benefits such as more trust as a consumer by having face to face contact with the supplier, here are some categories of the consumption of local products as listed from: http://www.fairtradetowns.org/
– Product: consumption according to the season, organic, locally produced, less meat, little packaging, cooking with basic ingredients (not processed or pre-cooked) and GM free.
– Price: fair trade, a realistic price for producers in our regions, a reasonable salary for every actor in the supply chain
– Place: buying large amounts once a week in the supermarket, buying at the farm, system of subscription to weekly fruit and vegetable packages
– Promotion/information: close contact with farmers, information about producer and the supply chain.
Many debates have sprung about how to do both local organic food and fair trade and here is a perfect quote to sum up the solution:
John McAllion, Chair of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, “There need be no conflict between buying Fairtrade and buying local produce. Buy local meat, potatoes and dairy products to support your local economy and buy quality Fairtrade coffee, tea and other products that can’t be grown locally to help Fairtrade producers in the developing world get a fair deal”.
So why does this all matter to you specifically?
As consumers we all have the ability to change the rules of the game, to change how our food is produced, how our agriculture can remain sustainable and how our workers, local farmers, small business owners are treated, how to avoid exploitation and create a world of fair trading and producing. This change starts with us, what we buy and what we endorse matters. By changing a small part of your life and trying to buy locally more often than you already are or by purchasing fair trade items, the terms of trade and production can change. If we all changed our ways slightly eventually more and more we can strive for a fair trade and sustainable world.
After learning about all of these reasons to make fair trade and local organic food choices and learning what these terms actually mean, I have realized that even as a university student I can make a change in my everyday life. I can go to the farmers market more often, or to local businesses for my fruits and veggies. I can purchase fair trade teas and chocolate every once in a while, or buy fair trade coffee for similar prices! Where can I do this? Well next weekend the food security campaign will be going to the many different local and fair trade places around Kingston to learn how easy it really is it go LOFT and how we can really integrate this into our own life. Read our blog next week to see pictures and descriptions of various different places around Kingston and how we are able to go LOFT!
Where did I get this info?
Check out these websites for more info!! "
- Sydney Risi | Food Security Project Director | Oxfam @ Queen's University