Tuesday, October 18, 2011
I have been learning more about the child labor crisis in Africa, and especially about the fact that most of our chocolate comes from Ghana and the Ivory Coast, both countries that use children and slaves to produce cocoa. Here is a short summary of the problem.
In an effort to find out more, I have been trying to do some internet research to find companies that produce fair trade chocolate, and I haven't found much luck. I went to Whole Foods twice, asking about fair trade Halloween candy. The first time, they showed me some organic suckers. But let's be real . . . what kid wants a boring old sucker for Halloween? As a kid, I can remember sorting through my bag of candy on the night of October 31 and being excited about the M&M's that Mom never let me have - NOT the Smartees. The second time I tried Whole Foods, I just went to the chocolate section to see if they had some version of minatures. No luck.
I did some internet searches for fair trade minature chocolates, but all I could find were these truffle things or chocolate "coins" that no kid would want to sort into their "keep" pile. They would definitely go out with the Smartees.
So, I headed to Target. I had heard that Hershey's has a horrible rating for fair trade, so I checked every bag and finally settled on Nestle Butterfinger and Twix. Yum. Even my precious York Peppermint patties are Hershey's! I went home with my big bags of chocolate (one for the church festival and one for actual Halloween night). Let's hope I don't open them before October 31; at least it's not as tempting without the Yorks. I didn't meet my goal of buying free trade, but at least I didn't buy the worst of the worst - right?
Wrong. When I got home this afternoon, I started to do a little more research. Come to find out, Nestle and Mars are JUST AS BAD AS Hershey's. Nestle offers a fair trade kit kat in the U.K., which amounts to .1% of the cocoa they buy. Boo. Hiss.
However, there is hope. I found a couple of websites that offer fair trade minature chocolates at a reasonable price:
www.equalexchange.com - that's where the pic above comes from.
www.sweetearthchocolates.com - pic below:
http://www.fairtradefederation.org/ also seems to have some good information on the subject, especially the article found here. The information is from 2009, but it's hard to find up-to-date information. Trying to find information about fair trade cocoa on the actual websites of Hershey's, Mars, and Nestle is a joke.
I'm not sure if I have wasted 3 of Andy's naptimes on too much research on a subject that I can't do much to change, but I can change my buying practices. I also made a product request at Whole Foods for the minatures. The sales girl said that they have been experiencing a lot of problems with their chocolate melting because it's been SO STINKING HOT, but she said that she would let management know. Who knows - maybe they will add it!
If you have any other information on fair trade chocolate, I would love to hear it. I really do want to be a responsible consumer and make the most use of the buying power God has given to me. We no longer have slavery in the U.S., but if our consumption of cheap chocolate is causing others to live in slavery, then isn't that the same thing as enslaving them ourselves? If we have an alternative to children being forced to work long hours in the cocoa fields, and that alternative involves giving their parents a living wage through a cocoa cooperative, then I would rather eat a little less chocoate and pay a little more for the chocolate I do enjoy. I can say that in a blog, but it's putting that desire into practice that is the hard part. Maybe these few hours of internet research will come to a little something after all.