Carnegie Mellon University

For the price of a cup of coffee

For the price of a cup of coffee

Java junkies like me are living in a golden age. You can get a great cup of joe just about anywhere--even McDonald's boasts gourmet coffee. Heck, walk into a corner gas station and there are so many flavors of coffee you don't what to pick.

Many of us, however, probably give little thought to what it takes to bring us that cup or six of coffee that gives us our jump-start every morning. The truth is that many Central American farmers can barely eke out a living growing coffee beans. According to the Pittsburgh organization Building New Hope, a drop in coffee prices during the late 1990s brought starvation to coffee-growing regions of Nicaragua. In 2002, Building New Hope--whose board of directors includes Carnegie Mellon faculty members John Soluri and Theresa Tardio--formed a partnership with the farming cooperative of El Porvenir to sell coffee at above-market prices in the United States.

In honor of their volunteer work with Building New Hope, Carnegie Mellon has awarded Soluri, an associate professor of history and Tardio, a lecturer in Spanish, the Jefferson Award for Public Service. The Jefferson Awards were founded in 1972 by the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, among others, to serve as a Nobel Prize for community and public service. They are given at the local and national level; Soluri and Tardio are local winners.

"John and I were both surprised. It's nice publicity for the organization. If it brings more attention to Central American issues and fair trade in general, it's a good thing," Tardio said.

By the way, if you'd like to know where you can purchase Building New Hope's coffee, click here.  

Jonathan Potts