Fairtrade fortnight – Fairtrade city?

Did you know that St Albans used to be a Fairtrade City? It means that a city sells a range of fairtrade food in its shops, câfés, pubs and restaurants. Local schools, businesses, churches and community groups need to show a commitment too, and the local council needs to serve Fairtrade tea and coffee in its meetings and events. Back in 2006 St Albans acheived this, with the help of a motivated steering group, but this has now lapsed. To make matters worse, Harpenden and Watford have maintained their status – action is needed!

A new team, including local campaigners from Oxfam and World Development Movement met with Mayor Cllr Aislinn Lee last week, to get the ball rolling.

It is Fairtrade Fortnight (27th Feb – 11 March), so what better time to talk about Fairtrade. As we enjoyed a cup of Fairtrade coffee with the Mayor, we heard about what the City needs to do, and what we as local people can do. Mayor Aislinn Lee was very supportive of the campaign, and we were delighted to see that she already only serves Fairtrade coffee to visitors. The Mayor also had an excellent understanding of the issues and was very interested to talk about what this might mean for local businesses and residents.

Claire Macreish is the manager of the Chequer Street branch of Oxfam, and her shop sells a good range of Fairtrade goods, including lots of chocolate in time for Easter. You can also buy dried fruits and nuts, as well as preserves, tea and coffee. It was really good to hear that the St Albans shop is one of the most successful in the country for selling fairtrade, so the people of St Albans do support Fairtrade. Over half of the volunteers in Claire’s shop are sixth-formers from local schools, and she is very happy to do talks in local schools too, so the message is getting out there to the next generation.

Jamie Warden explained that the Abbey already sell a range of Fairtrade products in the cafe and after services, and is in the process of achieving Fairtrade status.

Many of us already buy Fairtrade tea, coffee and bananas, but I was very interested to hear that there are other many other everyday options. Did you know that you can buy Fairtrade Olive Oil, from olive farmers in Palestine? You can buy it in Oxfam shops and in some supermarkets. Local campaigners Hilary Tyrrell and Philip Nixon recently went to Palestine to meet with olive farmers, and see for themselves how buying Fairtrade helps families and communities there. Perhaps you can show your support for Fairtrade by choosing one more Fairtrade item in your weekly shop. Why not try the Zaytouun Fairtrade olive oil? You can also buy Fairtrade wine, beer, fruit juice, sweets and couscous. Buy some chocolate and feel very smug about it! There are non-food items too ranging from soaps to rubber gloves!

If you run a local business and already use Fairtrade, the group would love to hear from you. The group need to compile a list of who does what to apply for Fairtrade City Status. Hilary told me: “We are keen to get support and involvement from across the community including the council, businesses, schools, faith groups and community organisations”. If you would like to send a message of support, email the group on:

fairtradestalbans@gmail.com  (or call Jeff Heine on 01727 838658).

If you don’t use Fairtrade yet, maybe this is the year? As well as helping communities to do fair business, it is also a great marketing tool – customers like to know that they are doing their bit. When you price up the cost of a tea bag, is it really that difficult to switch?

If you would like to hear more about the campaign for Fairtrade City status, or would like to help, the group are holding a public meeting on Thursday 29 March. It will be in Committee Room 1 at the Civic Centre, 7.30pm. There will be Fairtrade food to try and some interesting speakers. If your business, however big or small, is already really good at using Fairtrade, then do let the group know. Let’s bring the St Albans Fairtrade City Status back!


Did you know?

* Everyone baptised in the St Albans diocese is annointed with Fairtrade Olive oil from Palestine?



About thelocalfoodie

Food writer for The Herts Advertiser.
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