Free-trade coffee to be offered by UDS after recent MSA resolution

by Seth Woehrle

Students craving a caffeine fix on campus will soon have the choice to kick-start their senses of consumer activism as well as their sleep-deprived nervous systems.

The Minnesota Student Association forum unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday requesting that University Dining Services offer free-trade coffee blends in on-campus coffee shops and residence hall cafeterias.

“The University of Minnesota is a consumer, and as a consumer we have a lot of power,” said MSA member Brian Wiedenmeier, author of the resolution. “As students we have a crucial interest in how that buying power is directed.”

Kay Akey, UDS operations director, said all companies the University currently has contracts with already have at least one free-trade coffee blend and, for now, their prices will be the same as normal blends.

Akey estimated the cost to be approximately $1 to $2.50 more per pound than normal coffee.

The coffees will be available in Essentials in Blegen Hall, The Cup in Moos Tower, Starbucks in Williamson Hall, Terrace on the St. Paul campus and the Coffee Corner in the Carlson School of Management.

Some locations will have the products sooner than others, Akey said, and the prices will be reviewed in the spring.

Starbucks won’t be able to deliver its free-trade coffee until January, but Essentials could have its blend as soon as next week.

UDS Catering Services will also offer a fair-trade blend at the same price as its other gourmet coffees. It will also likely be available to residence hall students with no rise in meal plan costs.

Akey said UDS would probably abide by any decision by the Residence Hall Association student group, which voted last week to accept the new blends in residence hall cafeterias.

“I think most people, when given a chance to buy fair-trade coffee, would choose it,” Akey said.

Also, Coffee Corner might start using beans from another vendor.

While MSA didn’t name a particular vendor, Wiedenmeier said his personal favorite would be Peace Coffee, a local roaster that sells fair-trade “shade-grown” coffee, where farmers – rather than cutting down forests to plant – grow the beans under the tree canopy.

Akey said no decision has been made yet to change the Carlson vendor, but UDS will look into it.

After the coffee resolution, the forum debated another that would have supported working people’s right to unionize, and called on all employers to refrain from preventing their employees from organizing. It failed 20-19.

“We should really be spending our time on stuff that’s making a difference on campus,” said Johan Baumeister, a freshman and a new representative from the RHA who spoke against the resolution. “If the resolution had been more specific to campus issues, I would have been for it.”