Food and Drink 

Don’t worry, buy happy

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With the U.S.-based Community Food Security Coalition holding its annual conference in Vancouver this week, I can’t think of a better way to establish food or any other kind of security than ensuring that hungry people, wherever they live, get enough to eat and live decently.

While there are more than enough people without enough in our own backyard to shame us all, poverty and hunger in developing countries reach an even greater magnitude by about a million-fold.

Unless you’re up for volunteering with Oxfam or Habitat for Humanity on a project in a less fortunate part of the world, one of the easiest and most effective things you can do to tip the balance more equitably is to buy fair trade goods.

If you don’t have the fair trade habit, now is a good time to start. October, that time of accelerated purchasing for all things scary and merry, from Halloween to Christmas, has been dubbed fair trade month in the U.S. It’s a timely concept worth putting on our radar screens, too.

You’ve likely seen a fair trade logo on a label or ad, or on a shop window sign or website. But most of us don’t really understand what it means in all senses of the word.

If you want a formal definition, Wikipedia offers one in spades: Fair trade is an organized social movement that promotes equitable standards for international labour , environmentalism , and social policy, whether or not the goods carry one of the recognized logos such as “Fairtrade” or “Fair Trade Certified”.

Fair trade labeling indicates that certain standards have been met through a system of monitoring and auditing. The marks act like a guarantee, but some unlabelled products may still be fairly traded despite their lack of certification by an appropriate agency.

Fair trade is rooted in notions of sustainability and conscience. Trade, not aid, is a common mantra. Suppliers are often organized into unions or cooperatives with a more direct link to the consumer. Many of the middlemen, who often earn a ridiculously high portion of the profits, are eliminated. The bottom line is that people who don’t happen to live in a privileged country are able to earn a fairer income for their work.

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