Ethical Eats

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Event Recap: Behind the Brands Petition at Queen’s

Last week Oxfam @ Queen’s hosted an advocacy event at the corner of U&U to raise awareness about Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign, collect signatures for a petition, and most importantly: give out chocolate! (It wouldn’t be a Food Security campaign event without some delicious eats!)

Petitioning at U&U!

Petitioning at U&U!

For those that don’t know, Behind the Brands is a global Oxfam campaign that challenges the ten biggest global food brands to improve their business practices relating to seven issues.

The brands: Nestle, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Danone, Mars, PepsiCo, Mondalēz, General Mills, Kelloggs, and Associated British Foods.

The issues: land, women, farmers, workers, climate, transparency, and water.

The latest Behind the Brands campaign focuses on land grabs and sugar. Specifically, Oxfam is asking Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and ABF to make sure that the sugar they buy doesn’t lead to land grabs. In order to apply positive pressure to the three biggest sugar-buyers in the world, Oxfam has been collecting signatures over the past month-and-a-half, with a goal of 275 000 signatures. With 251 850 signatures so far, the petition is generating waves in the industry. Coca-Cola has already committed to a zero-tolerance policy for land grabs!

We had a goal of collecting 200 signatures in four hours, and surpassed that goal with 209 signatures! Exceeding our goal was impressive, but we were even happier with the conversations that we had with the students who took the time to sign the petition. You tend to get a lot of blank looks when you talk about an issue like land grabs, but people were genuinely interested in learning more about the topic. We got a lot of great questions about the campaign, land rights, and Oxfam!

Thank you to all the volunteers who braved the wind and cold and came out to hold a poster, give out chocolate, or collect signatures for the petition. Your enthusiasm made the day go by faster!

For more information about Oxfam and Behind the Brands, visit And sign the petition if you haven’t already done so!

– Hannah Shirtliff


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Being a Vegetarian (or Flexitarian) in Residence: Part Two

So, what can you eat that’s healthy, appetizing, and filling?

– Every cafeteria at Queen’s has a vegetarian and/or vegan station, and the food is usually better because they prepare it in smaller quantities!

– You can usually find vegetarian food at other food stations – just ask!

– Ban Righ and West Campus always have tofu available as a stir-fry option

– Salads in Leonard! Grab a plate from the pizza station and fill it up with lettuce and veggies, then add tofu or beans for protein

– Leonard Cafeteria’s pre-made salad bar often features yummy, high-protein vegetarian options

– The pizza station often serves whole-wheat no-cheese or vegetarian pizza, but it’s not usually listed on the menus near the door

– When nothing seems appealing, or you want a quick snack, have a banana with peanut butter

– Hummus is a great dip for whole-wheat pita bread or vegetables, and it’s a great source of protein

– Cottage cheese is available at every meal, and it’s high in protein and calcium. Try it with fruit at breakfast or as a salad topper at lunch and dinner!

What to Avoid

– The key to good nutrition is variety, so make sure that you don’t end up eating the exact same thing for lunch and supper every day!

– Make sure that carbohydrate-based foods like bread and pasta don’t make up the basis of your meal

–  Cheese is a great source of nutrients, but use it sparingly because of its high fat content

Where are your favourite places to get vegetarian food on campus?  

– Hannah

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Eating Fair Trade

There are a lot of uncertainties about what “fair trade” is and there’s no conclusive answer. It’s a fairer way of doing trade and the consumers interpret that as they wish. An easy way to know whether what you’re buying is truly “fair trade” or not is to look for the Fair Trade International logo.

fair trade

Still, Fair Trade certified products are plagued with misconceptions. Hopefully this post can clear some of those up for you…

Misconception #1: Fair Trade is just an economic agreement

Fair Trade is not just an economic agreement but includes a manifold of other standards and regulations required for certification. Certified Fair Trade products guarantee farmers are not exploited receiving better prices and longer-term, meaningful trading relationships. To be a Fairtrade certified product, producers have to meet certain criteria ranging from labour standards to sustainable farming to democratic participation (ie. as a co-operative). Company relationships with producers need to maintain a minimum price and longer contracts regularly audited by an independent certification body (FLO-Cert). A Fairtrade certified product does not solely mean a fair price is given to the producers but encompasses a myriad of other requirements.

Misconception #2: Fair Trade is more expensive

Although the nature of Fair Trade necessitates higher prices for producers, it does not automatically mean the products are unaffordable for consumers. You’d be surprised at how inexpensive and available Fair Trade products can be.

Misconception #3: Fair Trade is difficult to find

Fair Trade products are more readily available than many assume. Regular grocery stores, even Metro, Loblaws, and the Campus Grocery Store, have Fair Trade products in stock. It is true that Fair Trade is not as easily accessible as regularly traded products but with consumer pressure for stores to start selling more Fair Trade this can certainly transform.

Misconception #4: I’m a student and Fair Trade just isn’t possible for me right now

Fair Trade products are available on campus at cheap prices! Oxfam at Queen’s started what is now known as the Fair Trade Co-Operative a few years ago. The sole purpose of the Co-Op is to have Fair Trade products available on-campus for the student body. The Co-Op sells Fair trade coffee, tea, chocolate, and other treats at whole-sale prices making absolutely no profit. Our products are from Canadian-based companies (Equita, Camino, and Just Us) who work with co-operative farmers from all over the world. The kiosk is run entirely by volunteers out of the Walkhome booth in the lower JDUC from 11:30-4:30 every Monday to Thursday.

fair trade 2fair trade 3

No excuses now: it’s fair, it’s cheap, it’s on-campus, and it’s delicious.

— Angela

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Being a Vegetarian (or Flexitarian) in Residence: Part One

In August, I made the decision that when I came to Queen’s I would become a vegetarian (or at least a flexitarian – someone who eats meat on occasion but tries to avoid it as much as possible). To go from eating meat twice a day to once a week was a big adjustment at first. However, once I got into the habit, and found foods that I enjoyed, it was easy to keep it up. Seven months later, I probably eat meat two to three times per week, when I need to grab something quickly from a fast-food place on campus and there are no appealing and filling vegetarian options available. In this first post, I’ll explore my reasons for becoming a flexitarian.

Why Go Veg?

Reducing your meat consumption is good for your body! (As long as you’re still eating healthfully, that is!) Without meat as the center of your meal, you can make fruits and vegetables the main focus. You’ll soon find that your plate at dinner is more colourful, and you gain a greater appreciation for simple flavours. Immediately after meals, you feel less sluggish and tired. Becoming a vegetarian also has long-term benefits: you reduce your risk of cancer and diabetes, and increase your potential lifespan. Of course, it’s important that you replace meat with protein sources such as beans, tofu, peanut butter, hummus, and cheese (in moderation), rather than simple carbohydrates and high-fat foods. French fries, potato chips, and brownies may be vegetarian, but that doesn’t make them healthy!


Your actions will also have a wider effect, benefiting the environment and reducing the demand for factory-farmed animals. Factory farming is a term used to describe the practice of raising animals such as chickens, pigs, and cattle in high-density environments. Factory farms want to produce the biggest possible animals as quickly and cheaply as possible. Crowding of animals leads to injuries (which often go untreated) and an overuse of antibiotics to counter diseases. The animals are often inhumanely slaughtered and processed in dangerous environments for workers. All of the steps involved in factory farming lead to pollution, destruction of local ecosystems, and wasteful uses of resources. Sodexo, the company which runs the Queen’s cafeterias, has promised to source sustainable fish and seafood by 2015, but their website mentions nothing about the consequences of factory farming or sourcing meat products from ethical sources.


In my next post, I’ll explore the healthy vegetarian options available in the Queen’s University cafeterias. Check it out if you want to make the switch or just reduce your meat consumption by going veg a few times per week!

If you’re a vegetarian already, why did you make the switch? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

— Hannah