UMCOR / News Room / News & Features / Archives 2009 / 0603 - UMCOR and Equal Exchange Celebrate United Methodist “Tons” of Fair Trade Support

UMCOR and Equal Exchange Celebrate United Methodist “Tons” of Fair Trade Support

June 03, 2009 —The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and its partner Equal Exchange, a worker-owned co-operative dedicated to fair trade, celebrate the efforts of United Methodists everywhere who participated in UMCOR’s 100-Ton Challenge by purchasing fairly traded products through UMCOR’s Coffee Project.  

Through UMCOR’s 100-Ton Challenge which began and ended on World Fair Trade Day May 10, 2008 through May 9, 2009, United Methodists purchased 82.4 tons (or over 164,000 pounds) of fairly traded coffee, tea, chocolate and snacks. United Methodist churches nationwide placed over 7,700 orders of Equal Exchange fairly traded product and 448 churches joined the UMCOR Coffee Project for the first time.

Crossroads Urban Center, a United Methodist Mission Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah and partner with the new UMCOR West Depot, was the largest account, buying over $15,000 worth of fair trade product for its food co-op through the UMCOR Coffee Project. First United Methodist Church in Santa Rosa, Calif., was the largest church purchaser, buying more than $8,000 worth of fairly traded goods.

The 12-month campaign caused United Methodist coffee and cocoa purchases to rise nearly 20 percent from the previous 12-month period, totaling over $1.3 million in sales, despite the weakening US economy and slowing sales growth in many sectors nationwide. Because of United Methodist support, The UMCOR Coffee Project was the fastest growing faith-based partnership with Equal Exchange in 2008.  

“This is amazing growth for the UMCOR Coffee Project,” said Anna Utech, Interfaith Program director of Equal Exchange. “Amidst a US recession, the results of this Challenge are a testament to the care and commitment United Methodists have in supporting small-scale farmers.  We are truly grateful.”

100-Ton Challenge

The 100-Ton Challenge encouraged United Methodists to increase the amount of fairly traded products purchased through The UMCOR Coffee Project at Equal Exchange. For every pound of product sold, a portion went to support farmers through the Small Farmer Fund and UMCOR’s Sustainable Agricultural and Development Program (SA&D). The goal of the Challenge was to increase awareness about fair trade in United Methodist churches everywhere and to leverage fairly traded products to help promote fair wages for farmers in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the United States.

Fair Trade Gaining Momentum Among UM Churches

 “Although the 100-Ton mark was not reached as we had hoped, the fair trade issue is indeed gaining momentum among United Methodists,” said June H. Kim, UMCOR’s Hunger and Poverty executive.

“In essence we have met our goal.  We are hearing more and more from individual churches who are making strides in their communities to educate others about fair trade,” Kim continued.  “Churches are making just lifestyle choices to positively impact the lives of our neighbors here at home and abroad.”

A group from First United Methodist Church (FUMC) in Orlando, Fla., is one such example. The church’s Nu Class members, an inter-generational Sunday school class, was interested in finding a way to support UMCOR, enjoy fair trade coffee and become better stewards of the environment at the same time.  The group supported UMCOR’s Coffee Project by collecting monthly pledges from several of its Sunday school classes.  Last year, FUMC made the switch from buying coffee from a major distributor to Equal Exchange.

Beach Lake United Methodist Church in Penn., has also been a strong supporter of fair trade.  In April, the Rev. Mark Terwilliger used Palm Sunday to educate his congregation about child slave labor in cocoa producing farms in Africa. At the end of the service, the congregation’s convictions toward fair trade spoke through their purchases.  Beach Lake UMC sold more Equal Exchange chocolate than ever before. While raising funds was the not goal, Rev. Terwilliger wanted to educate his congregation on how food is produced and how farmers are directly affected by our every day consumer choices.

Fair Trade Empowers Farmers

In Latin America, Africa and Asia, small farmers who grow coffee or cocoa often struggle just to make a simple living. Most of them live in poor communities isolated from urban markets.  They are forced to accept low prices. Without affordable credit, they become trapped in a cycle of debt that leaves them without access to adequate housing, healthcare and education. 

Through Equal Exchange’s Interfaith Program which partners with faith-based organizations and congregations, the gap between the grower and the purchaser of coffee or cocoa products is bridged. Purchasers of fairly traded products become part of a partnership that helps farmers stay on their land, care for the environment and supports their families’ healthcare and education needs, thereby, empowering farmers to build credit and provide for their families.

How You Can Help

While the 100-Ton Challenge has ended, your fair trade purchases are a lifetime assurance for the lives of small-scale farmers. Your purchases directly benefit small farmer democratically-run co-operatives which profit from coffee or cocoa sales.  It helps them establish community improvement programs such as organic farming, leadership development or helps them afford education and healthcare for their families.

Visit Equal Exchange Interfaith Store now  and make a difference in the lives of farmers through your purchases. You can also give to UMCOR-SA&D Program, UMCOR Advance #982188 which trains farmers how to grow healthier crops by incorporating environmentally-sound farming techniques that increase their crop production and their livelihood. Online Giving