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By Nicole Feenstra

Students and faculty at Ryerson are invited to trade in Coca-Cola products and conventional cups of coffee for healthier and more socially conscious beverages on Nov. 17.

The Community Food Room and the Working Students’ Centre are hosting the free trade-in from noon to 4 p.m. in the Hub in hopes of raising awareness about fair trade products and the Coca-Cola Corporation’s alleged mistreatment of workers in developing countries.

In return for Coke products and coffee, students get locally-grown fruit juices, ordered through The Big Carrot, and fair trade coffee from Alternative Grounds, Toronto’s oldest supplier of certified organic coffee. Fair trade sugar will also be available. Jerome Nguyen, outreach co-ordinator for the Community Food Room, said fair trade coffee ensures farmers in third world countries get a living wage, children go to school instead of working in fields and allows for environmental sustainability.On top of that, it also tastes better, said Nguyen.

“It’s a totally different class of coffee,” he said. “Fair coffee, besides being a socially responsible product, it’s also a gourmet product. I mean, it’s grown organically and it’s grown under the shade, so the coffee actually has less of an acidic tang.”

The groups also plan to use the trade-in to raise awareness about the Coca-Cola Corporation’s suspected human rights violations. Angelica de Jesus, events co-ordinator for the Working Students’ Centre, described one incident in Columbia where militants allegedly murdered Coca-Cola workers who were fighting for workers’ rights. Coca-Cola released a statement saying they “investigated the claims regarding human rights abuses in Columbia and found no evidence to support them.”

Ryerson has a five-year preferred vendor contract with Coca-Cola. That means only Coke products are sold on campus, and competing brands, like Pepsi, are not. The Student Campus Centre is exempt from the agreement because “it’s run by students,” said John Corallo, director of Ancillary Services. “I have no jurisdiction over it.” Corallo said the agreement with Coca-Cola provides much needed funds that Ryerson wouldn’t get if there were multiple companies on campus.

The details of the agreement between Ryerson and Coca-Cola have never been released, but Corallo said revenue goes to “student bursaries, the athletic marketing fund, the university marketing fund, for student initiatives and the university capital debt program.”

“We just want to let students know what is going on campus about our executive deal and how we don’t have a choice in what we get to drink on campus,” de Jesus said. “We should be able to have a choice.”

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