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National Fair Trade Contest Won by Saint Mary's College High Students

The student Fair Trade Club at Saint Mary's High School on the Albany-Berkeley border won a national contest for their campaign to promote fair trade bananas.

The student Fair Trade Club at Saint Mary's College High School conducted a Fair Trade Bananas campaign in Oct. 2013. Left to right are Danae Husary, Catalina Jackson-Uruena, Taylor Conran, and Megan McKiernan. Photo credit: Craig Sutphin
The student Fair Trade Club at Saint Mary's College High School conducted a Fair Trade Bananas campaign in Oct. 2013. Left to right are Danae Husary, Catalina Jackson-Uruena, Taylor Conran, and Megan McKiernan. Photo credit: Craig Sutphin
National recognition has come to an exceptional effort to support fair trade by students at Saint Mary's College High School.

The Fair Trade Club at the school located on the border of Albany and Berkeley launched a campaign in October focused on bananas – which comprise more than half of U.S. fresh fruit imports by volume.

A big part of the campaign was distributing "BananaGrams," which are product request cards filled out by consumers addressed to store managers asking that they stock fair trade bananas. The students focused on shoppers and management at Trader Joe's.

The 25-member club, whose faculty advisor is Craig Sutphin, entered a national BananaGrams contest sponsored by Fair Trade Towns USA, whose winner would be the campaign with the most BananaGrams.

When the results were tallied in November, thewinner was Saint Mary's

"I was ecstatic when I found out we had won," said Nabai Habtemariam, president of the Fair Trade Club and a senior at the school.

In addition to collecting 784 BananaGrams and petitioning Trader Joe's, the club conducted 16 Fair Trade presentations for more than 700 people, according to the contest winner's announcement from Fair Trade Towns USA.

The club, which started with only a few members last year, also made t-shirts promoting Fair Trade bananas and distributed Fair Trade banana baked goods and stickers, Habtemariam, who walked around in a banana costume for a week.

Fair trade campaigns seek adequate pay and healthy working conditions free of discrimination and exploitation for farmers and workers who raise agricultural products.

Did they succeed in getting the local Trader Joe's to carry fair trade bananas?

"We have not had any concrete success in persuading Trader Joe's to switch," Habtemariam said via email. "A couple of our club members went to the Trader Joe's in Berkeley and spoke with the manager about providing Fair Trade bananas. The manager said he was all for it but could not do it since that would take some action at the corporate level. He did allow us to stand outside the store and talk to customers about buying Fair Trade products and supporting our campaign, though."

Asked what inspired him to work on the campaign, Habtemariam said,

"Personally, what motivated me to work on the Fair Trade bananas campaign and Fair Trade in general is my family background," he said. "My parents both grew up in poverty. They worked on their parents' farms in Eritrea for much of their younger lives. They struggled because they were not offered what Fair Trade is offering to scores of farmers worldwide. I want to give people, like my parents, an opportunity to earn what they deserve."

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