Alicia's Food For Thought

Black Gold – Fair Trade Coffee

Hi readers!

I just finished a screening of Black Gold at the Carlyle Court Coffee House.

This information can be found on the Black Gold Website:

Coffee is not just a drink. It’s a global commodity. As one of the world’s most traded products-second in value only to oil-the coffee industry employs millions of people around the world through its growing, processing and trading. But while the coffee trade is vital to the politics, survival and economies of many developing nations, the industry’s pricing and futures are decided in conference rooms and on stock exchange floors in some of the world’s wealthiest cities.

Multinational coffee companies now rule our shopping malls and supermarkets and dominate the industry worth over $80 billion, making coffee the most valuable trading commodity in the world after oil. But while we continue to pay for our lattes and cappuccinos, the price paid to coffee farmers remains so low that many have been forced to abandon their coffee fields.

Nowhere is this paradox more evident than in Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. Tadesse Meskela is one man on a mission to save his 74,000 struggling coffee farmers from bankruptcy. As his farmers strive to harvest some of the highest quality coffee beans on the international market, Tadesse travels the world in an attempt to find buyers willing to pay a fair price.

Against the backdrop of Tadesse’s journey to London and Seattle, the enormous power of the multinational players that dominate the world’s coffee trade becomes apparent. New York commodity traders, the international coffee exchanges, and the double dealings of trade ministers at the World Trade Organization reveal the many challenges Tadesse faces in his quest for a long term solution for his farmers.

So what does Fair Trade mean and why should I care if the logo is on my products or not?

  • Organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries and promote sustainability.
  • The movement advocates the payment of a higher price to producers as well as social and environmental standards.
  • Fair Trade’s strategic intent is to work with marginalized producers and workers in order to help them move towards economic self-sufficiency and stability.
  • Aims to allow them to become greater stakeholders in their own organizations, as well as play a wider role in international trade.


What can you do?

  1. Spread the Word – Tell your friends to purchase Fair Trade Coffee. (I told my mom to only purchase Fair Trade Coffee!)
  2. Think before your drink – Ask companies to pay a fair price for the coffee they drink.
  3. Change the Trade Rules – Persuade your politicians to make the trade rules fair.
  4. Join an organization

Something really easy you can do is to switch over to Think Coffee (if you’re in the NYC area). This is from their “About Us” section of their website:

think coffee serves only the finest coffees and hand-packed teas grown in an environmentally friendly manner and purchased by us in a way that is designed to improve the livelihoods of farmers.

think fair trade.

think organic and shade grown.

think espresso.

think wine and cheese.

And from Think’s “think fair trade section“:

Fair Trade. More than 25 million people in 50 countries depend on coffee farming for their livelihoods. The price farmers receive for their beans has a direct impact on their quality of life. In recent years, coffee beans have been trading at such depressed levels on world markets that many farmers are forced to make unfortunate choices. In some cases, farmers must decide between sending their children to school or having them work in the fields to make ends meet. In other cases, farmers stop growing coffee altogether and instead plant coca or other crops for the illegal drug trade.

Fair Trade is designed to address these problems by ensuring that farmers get a guaranteed minimum price for their product. By buying Fair Trade, you can be assured that you’re helping farmers to receive a living wage for their coffee beans and to keep their children in school where they belong.

All of our coffee is Fair Trade, no exceptions

Here is the trailer for the documentary:

I highly recommend that you watch this documentary. This film is what inspired me to get so involved with Food Politics and to become more aware of the products I buy as a consumer. I know it really is hard to remember that someone actually had to grow the food you are buying in that pretty package at the grocery store, but I want you to make a conscious effort to demand for fair trade products through your buying habits.

Thanks for reading, and hit me back if you know any other documentaries that talk about the politics of food.

Alicia Kim
Food for Thought Resident Assistant


Honest Tea

Hi readers,

Even though I kind of have this thing against juice (reasons that will be explained in a different post), I do enjoy my Orange Mango with Mangosteen (MANGOSTEEN!) Honest Ade with my lunch every once in a while. So today in my Social Entrepreneurship class I was surprised when we talked about how Honest Tea is an example of a social responsible business!

According to their website, this is their Mission:

Honest Tea creates and promotes delicious, truly healthy, organic beverages. We strive to grow with the same honesty we use to craft our products, with sustainability and great taste for all.


We will never claim to be a perfect company, but we will address difficult issues and strive to be honest about our ability or inability to resolve them. We will strive to work with our suppliers to promote higher standards. We value diversity in the workplace and intend to become a visible presence in the communities where our products are sold. When presented with a purchasing decision between two financially comparable alternatives, we will attempt to choose the option that better addresses the needs of economically disadvantaged communities.

A commitment to social responsibility is central to Honest Tea’s identity and purpose. The company strives for authenticity, integrity and purity, in our products and in the way we do business. In addition to creating a healthy alternative beverage with a lot less sugar than most bottled drinks, Honest Tea seeks to create honest relationships with our employees, suppliers, customers and with the communities in which we do business.

Honest Tea is made with real tea leaves, unlike most brands which use powder or syrup.
Honest Tea is all-natural and uses organic ingredients.
Honest Tea is lightly sweetened, so it actually tastes like tea.
Honest Tea seeks to create healthy and honest relationships with its suppliers, customers and the environment.

I also love how they have a Kids Pouch version to respond to the child obesity epidemic I have talked about before in this post.

I really suggest you read about the story/history behind Honest Tea, and how they were able to become successful. Basically, this type of business model gets me really excited about the potential of how you can make a successful business without compromising quality and having social responsibility be integral to the brand of the product. But some news came out earlier this year that Coca-Cola bought 40% of Honest Tea. So is this business model not only successful but also sustainable and able to compete with the big companies? Or does it even matter if Honest Tea becomes a part of Coca-Cola in the grander scheme of things?

In a Triple Pundit article about the Honest Tea’s President and “TeaEO” Seth Goldman address at the 2009 Net Impact Conference.

During the keynote, (shared with business leaders from CSR Wire, Vermont Bread Company and Ben & Jerry’s,) Goldman shared a story about how during the 2008 election, people from Obama’s campaign called him to see where they could find some Honest Tea somewhere in the midwest.  Goldman said that, unfortunately, he only had one store that carried his product in the region.  Clearly, something needed to change.
Enter Coca Cola.  Earlier last year, the multinational corporation acquired a large stake in Honest Tea’s company share.  Many were put off by this partnership, including New York University, who had banned all Coca Cola-related drinks (including Honest Tea) to protest the company’s human rights record.  Goldman lamented NYU’s decision because Honest Tea has a clean record.
With the Coca Cola partnership, Goldman had to eliminate his independent distributors in favor of Coke’s.  He defended that decision on the grounds that now more people will have access to a healthy drink.
“We’re making a great product, but if people can’t get it, that’s a problem.  Now with Coca Cola as our distributor, we’re making the product more available and we’re able to reach people that we’ve never been able to get before,” Goldman said.
Plus, Honest Tea can now teach Coca Cola a thing or two about sustainablity.  For example, Honest Tea bottles now have 22% less plastic than before, and according to Goldman, Coca Cola now wants to learn more about making more light-weight bottles.  So, can it be true that Coca Cola is now taking Honest Tea’s lead in reducing plastic content in its bottles?

So did Seth sell-out to Coca-Cola? Or is he really using this as an opportunity to expand his brand? I guess that is the sacrifice you need to make. You can’t ignore the fact that there are really large companies that have global access that smaller companies aren’t able to have. I personally think that this is a smart move on Seth’s part to stay relevant and to gain momentum into his brand and product. I don’t know how successful he is going to be in influencing the brand of Coca-Cola later on (we will have to wait and see). But I do find it interesting that the Coca-Cola company found Honest Tea as a worthy investment, and maybe this is a shift that we are seeing. We consumers, are able to have an affect on what is put on the shelves of our grocery stores if we demand the right and “honest” products. In this day and age, it is really important to remember that all these products are a service to us, and our feedback to these companies is priceless because our buying habits tells them what we value in a product.

I also wonder how NYU students will respond to the fact that Honest Tea will not be allowed to be sold on campus, but Honest Tea has been… “honest” all along. Personally, as an NYU student, I think there are many other social issues we can address other than Coca-Cola. I mean, honestly, have you seen the food we sell on campus in general? I don’t think we should single out Coca-Cola as being the only human rights “enemy” when there are many companies that violate other human rights all around.

Just as a side note, here is a picture of my friends and me at Fashion Week during our freshmen year at NYU (2008). They were giving out free Honest Ade and asked if they could take a picture of us to put on their website:

*Please excuse how fat Alyssa and I look… we are the epitome of the Freshmen 15 here (I hate dining hall food!). Thank god we lost the weight during sophomore year.

Anyways, please leave me a comment if you know any other successful social responsible companies. These stories really give me hope that we can change our eating/consumer habits and that food can just just be something to sustain us individually, but food can become a way for us to make social changes.

Thanks for reading and hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving!

Alicia Kim
Food for Thought Resident Assistant

Food, Inc.
November 23, 2009, 10:29 AM
Filed under: Media Bites | Tags: , , ,

I am so excited to see this film with my floor on December 5th! Expect a review post afterwards…

Obama Me Food Politics
November 19, 2009, 1:13 AM
Filed under: Media Bites

Politics of Food
November 9, 2009, 12:28 PM
Filed under: Media Bites | Tags: , , , ,

Hi readers!

As many of you may or may not know, I currently intern at Food Network in their Ad Sales & Marketing department and they emailed out this article that The New York Times published on Tuesday, November 3rd (Winnie’s birthday!).

It combines all the things I love- Food Network, Michelle Obama, and the politics behind food!

Read and please enjoy! (You can also read the article here)


Someone’s in the Kitchen with Michelle: The Secret Ingredient Is Politics

Jim Lo Scalzo for The New York Times

From left above: Bobby Flay, Cristeta Comerford, Alton Brown, Michelle Obama, Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse.

ALTON BROWN, the host of “Iron Chef America,” fell into the turnip patch just before the show began taping several scenes outside the White House in late October. (The best stuff always happens off camera.)

On the episode, which will open the show’s new season Jan. 3 on the Food Network, two pairs of chefs will compete: Cristeta Comerford, the White House executive chef, and Bobby Flay go up against the combined forces of Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse.

In a collision of politics, cooking and popular culture, Michelle Obama will reveal the secret ingredient that the chefs must use in their televised cook-off: anything that grows in the White House garden (no further spoilers here, though). Mrs. Obama will also talk about her crusade to reduce childhood obesity through better school lunches, community gardens, farmers’ markets and exercise, which around the White House has the working title Healthy Kids Initiative.

The first lady’s cameo on “Iron Chef” is the latest example of her willingness to get her message across to the public in ways few of her predecessors would have considered.

From digging, planting and harvesting the garden with elementary school children, to completing 142 revolutions with a hula hoop before cameras at last month’s kickoff for the Healthy Kids project, Mrs. Obama has been making her point.

Even the White House garden gets a star turn on Tuesday night’s episode of “The Biggest Loser,” on which overweight contestants shed pounds competitively. But that television show, unlike “Iron Chef,” did not score an appearance by the first lady.

Camille Johnston, Mrs. Obama’s communications director, sought out “Iron Chef” as a way to reach people who might otherwise know nothing about the first lady’s efforts.

Each episode of “Iron Chef America” is seen by almost 1.5 million viewers, and its core audience is 25- to 54-year-olds, publicists for the show say.

Mr. Batali, who might seem an unlikely spokesman for eating in moderation, has thrown himself into the project.

“What’s exciting for us is this is the first time I can remember the White House taking an active interest in doing something about diet and health,” he said. “They understand this kind of P.R.”

He continued, “If we don’t do something about how kids eat soon, it will be simply the largest problem facing this country.”

On Tuesday, the chefs reunited in New York to tape the competition in the studio known, in “Iron Chef” parlance, as the Kitchen Stadium. The show picked up Mrs. Obama’s theme, with Mr. Brown frequently reminding the audience that the vegetables were fresh and local. They were also organic. (They were not, however, grown in the White House garden; these were stand-ins.)

“Sounds like a slogan,” Mr. Batali said. “But what a way to eat.”

The battle began 45 minutes late. Suddenly the kitchen was a whirlwind. Some chefs and their assistants walked briskly, others ran. Before long their brows were furrowed and covered with perspiration, their jackets and aprons stained. Ms. Comerford, who has logged less camera time than the others, was as focused as they were, furiously slicing apples on a mandoline.

To round out the vegetables, the chefs were given a pantry of dairy products and animal proteins, including a baby pig. Words like rémoulade, ice cream, dirty rice and stuffed turkey roulade were thrown around as the chefs prepared to lay their offerings before the judges: Nigella Lawson, the television cook; Jane Seymour, the actress; and Natalie Coughlin, the Olympic swimmer.

At the taping on the South Lawn last month, the mood was far more pastoral. The four chefs traipsed though the garden, bantering while they picked their vegetables, a task that required five takes.

Soon Mr. Flay was hurling accusations at Mr. Lagasse: “Did you take all the cauliflower?” That prompted Mr. Lagasse to throw him one.

Mr. Flay yelled to Mr. Batali: “Mario, there’s a pappardelle bush over here,” a variation on a hoax started in 1957, when the BBC ran a mock documentary about the annual spaghetti harvest.

Mr. Batali told Mr. Flay, “You have a much cuter partner than I do.”

The cute partner, Cris Comerford, to Mr. Batali: “I think he’s cute too.”

The first lady’s appearance was scheduled for 3. She was ready at 3:15. Then the crew kept her waiting: “Hang on a sec. We have to touch up the chefs.” The makeup person ran over to powder shiny noses.

The first lady came through the door of the South Portico in a pumpkin-orange dress with teal blue shoes and short sweater, announced the secret ingredient and talked to the chefs about getting children to eat vegetables.

“It’s important for these kids to have a hands-on experience,” she said. “And now we’re expanding the tours of the garden to any public school children that come to Washington, D.C., and we’re doing those on a regular basis, and it’s been just a wonderful educational addition.” She suggested that the chefs might want to consider cooking some of the exceptionally large sweet potatoes in the garden. “We are sweet potato lovers,” she said, “especially the president.”

Off camera she chatted with the chefs about their participation. “This is huge,” she said. “It is going a long way to help change the way this country thinks about food. I want you to come back.”

The chefs offered to help, suggesting monthly segments with her.

She put in a plug for health care and then, like the perfect hostess-politician, introduced her kitchen staff to the chefs, took pictures with them, gave them hugs, greeted the television crew and left, but not before telling the chefs that one of her Secret Service agents wants to challenge them to a “brisket-off.”


I love how Michelle Obama is advocating healthy eating habits among young Americans and getting Food Network stars to be involved as well!

Bravo Michelle, bravo.

Alicia Kim
Food For Thought Resident Assistant

Fall into Food
November 8, 2009, 11:38 AM
Filed under: Recipes

Hi readers!

In spirit of the Fall season, I decided to give you two recipes to celebrate pumpkins and squash!

Vegan Pumpkin Pie (Thank you Trez for the recipe!)


1 pie crust
1 can (15 oz.) of pumpkin
1 cup soy milk
1/4 cup corn starch
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425.  Add everything together and mix it up well; when it comes to the sugar and spices, those are the amounts I always start with, but I usually play around with it until it tastes right to me (which means I usually use a little more than what’s listed above).  Pour the filing into the crust and bake at 425 for 15 minutes.  Turn the oven down to 350 and bake another 45 – 50 minutes.  Use a toothpick/knife to see if it’s done; when it comes out clean, you’re all set.

Sometimes I cover the crust in foil for the first 15 minutes at 425 to prevent it from getting too brown. I’ve seen some recipes with tofu, but I really like the cornstarch as a thickener; almost everyone who’s ever tried it was surprised it was vegan.

Squash Soup – From Food Network

6 cups (about 2 large squash) seeded 2-inch wide chunks butternut squash
Melted butter, for brushing
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, plus 1/2 teaspoon
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
4 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon minced ginger
4 ounces heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Brush the flesh of the squash with a little butter and season with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper. On a sheet pan lay the squash flesh side up. Roast for about 30 to 35 minutes or until the flesh is nice and soft.

Scoop the flesh from the skin into a pot and add the stock, honey, and ginger. Bring to a simmer and puree using a stick blender. Stir in the heavy cream and return to a low simmer. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

I made the squash soup this past weekend while I was on duty and it turned out really yummy! I might have kept the thyme in there a bit too long, but overall it is a very good savory-sweet dish :).

Hope you enjoyed and have a great week!

Alicia Kim
Food For Thought Resident Assistant