Wednesday, April 23, 2003

New Jersey. Why?

Why was I in New Jersey and New York City over the weekend? I was there to attend the Kraft Foods' annual general meeting of shareholders on the Tuesday. This was part of my work for Oxfam America.

If you read my first blog entry, you know that I am very careful in writing about my work. My blog is a completely public medium; anyone could be reading. So this is all that I will share.

Here's the Oxfam America press release that we released before the Kraft AGM.

Here's the Oxfam America press release we released after the Kraft AGM.

And here's the press release that INFACT issued after the AGM.

Read between the lines amongst yourselves.

I would also add the following observations.

It was wicked cool to spin press stories on my cell-phone while I waited at Newark Airport International Arrivals holding a sign for Dessalgn Jena, a manager of an Ethiopian coffee farmers' cooperative. It was wicked cooler to greet him upon his arrival with the Ethiopian words for "welcome," which I had just learned from one of Ethiopian families also waiting there.

It was fun just to do press work for the first time since I joined Oxfam America. I helped place stories with a few news outlets: Reuters, Star Ledger, Inter Press Service, and AFX Global Ethics Monitor.

At the AGM, I received a big box of Kraft products, most of which involve chocolate and other forms of sugar and must be foisted on my friends and co-workers due to my diet. (Although I did sneak a few bites of the Toblerone.)

After the AGM, I took pictures of the representatives of Friends of the Earth, U.S. PIRG, and Ecopledge who had attended the meeting to question Kraft executives over the issue of genetically modified foods. The group included Chevy Chase and his wife Jayni Chase, a board member of Friends of the Earth.

I am proud of the work that my colleagues and I did at the AGM. We helped Dessalgn Jena put a human face on the coffee crisis, which is destroying coffee farmers and their communities worldwide. Although we were not satisfied with Kraft's response at the AGM, I firmly believe that we set the stage on making a long-term impact on the company.

We did all that we could do that day for the coffee farmers.

Click here if you want to take action too.

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