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Justice & Peace: Maryland Church’s Fair Trade a Model Program

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Efforts to support fair trade products at St. Camillus Church here are so successful that the parish is earning recognition as a model program.

St. Camillus parishioner Ray Nosbaum recently participated in a workshop on fair trade sponsored by the Social Ministry Conference of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. Nosbaum shared how St. Camillus grew its fair trade program, beginning by serving refreshments produced in developing countries at the parish’s Sunday coffee hour.

Fair trade is an organized movement that supports products made in developing countries. Many churches sell fair trade products, mostly coffee, tea, chocolate and handmade crafts. Fair trade programs help local people learn to farm and produce items, while promoting self-sufficiency and sustainability.

News of the workshop was covered in a recent Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Fair Trade Network e-letter.

St. Camillus’ Story
The fair trade program began at St. Camillus in summer 2005 when a local organic farmer set up a stand selling fruits, vegetables and garden plants next to the church parking lot. Inspired by the local organic farmer, the parish council wanted to promote healthy food choices and support for fair wages and sustainable agriculture.

Volunteers from the church’s Fair Trade Team began offering free samples of fair trade coffee that was purchased at a local food co-op. From those early beginnings, the church, whose pastor is Michael Johnson, OFM, has developed a program that offers fair trade products on most weekends.

Each Sunday in the community room, fair trade coffee, tea, hot chocolate, organic juice, donuts and bagels are served. The Hospitality Team volunteers their labor, and a basket is provided for free-will donations.

When the church included information on the importance of fair trade in its bulletin inserts and placed posters and resources around the parish, interest in the program increased.

Now, the parish not only serves fair trade food but also sells it. Coffee, tea and cocoa through CRS fair trade coffee partner Café Campesino, Divine Chocolate through SERRV, and domestic fair trade snacks through CRS’ partner Equal Exchange are offered for sale at the cost of the product and shipping. The price paid is usually much lower than retail prices for similar quality products, so parishioners get a great value while providing farmers a fair wage.

Orders are placed for products by members of the Hospitality Team. Invoices are paid from the Parish’s Fair Trade account, which is replenished by profit from sales.

marylandHow to Start a Program
St. Camillus offers advice for parishes that want to start a fair trade program:
· Form a team and encourage volunteers
· Get support from parish leadership and the larger community
· Decide on products and pricing
· Prepare handouts
· Determine how to handle orders

One of the providers of Fair Trade products to the parish said: “St. Camillus is probably the longest and most constant relationship we have ever had with a church community. I can only imagine, and I get really excited about, how Fair Trade would grow if the St. Camillus model could be continued with other U.S. religious communities.”

Details about the fair trade ministry can be found on the new Web site of St. Camillus Parish. Information about Fair Trade can also be obtained by contacting fairtrade@crs.org.

The photo behind the picture aboveshows Nosbaum and other members of the St. Camillus justice and peace ministry at the Province’s JPIC Local Contacts Retreat in May 2009. They are Russell Testa, director of HNP’s Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation; Nosbaum, Karen Simon, Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, co-chair of the Province’s JPIC Directorate, and Luc Bitjad.

— Wendy Healy, a Connecticut-based writer, contributes frequently to HNP Today.