Friday, October 05, 2012

When a Church Halloween Event is Scary::The Truth about Chocolate

"UNICEF estimates that nearly a half-million children work on farms across the Ivory Coast, which produces nearly 40% of the world’s supply of cocoa. The agency says hundreds of thousands of children, many of them trafficked across borders, are engaged in the worst forms of child labor."

In January, 2012 CNN released an article, "Child Slavery and Chocolate: All too easy to Find."  In this piece a boy named Abdul is mentioned. He's 10 years old.  He's been working in the cocoa fields since he was 7.  He's never tasted chocolate. After his mother died, he was brought to one of the cocoa farms on the Ivory Coast.  All he's given is a little food, the tattered clothes on his back, and an "
occasional tip from a farmer.  Abdul is a modern child slave."

The truth is, most of the chocolate American families will buy and consume this Halloween will be harvested by child slaves.  Will you take three minutes and watch this report from the BBC?  

If you want to really educate yourself, here is a 5 part series (each series is short) from BBC about this issue.  These children and their stories are real.  

This year our cities will be filled with churches offering Fall Festivals and Halloween activities.  In an attempt to love our neighbors and our own communities, we'll purchase an unheard of amount of chocolate to drop in the trick-or-treat bags of happy, excited American children.  Are we participating in the enslavement of our youngest neighbors across the ocean - children trapped in slavery -  and labeling what we're doing "loving our neighbors?"  In order to provide entertainment and delicious treats to the children in our communities, are our churches voting with their purchasing power for a world where the plight of children across the ocean are ignored and forgotten?  In the name of loving and serving our neighbors right here in America, are we participating in the entrapment of children along The Ivory Coast?

Part of why our churches host Halloween events or Fall Festivals is so we can show good-will to our communities.  That's great.  But let's be honest.  Another reason we host these events is so our own families and children have a safe place to hang out on Halloween where they are less likely to see a bunch of devil costumes.  During these events where we're attempting to be a light in a dark world, are we still participating in one of the darkest, present-day injustices by purchasing and handing out loads of chocolate harvested by modern day slave children?  We're claiming to offer an alternative to the evil during this holiday while footing the bill for unthinkable abuse to children on the other side of the world.  

The dreamer in me envisions a world where the American Church leads out and sets the standard in issues like forced child labor and other social injustices.  Can you imagine the impact on the chocolate industry if every American church and church goer said "No" to chocolate made by child slaves this Halloween?  In our community, there is a growing list of organizations, businesses, and churches hosting Halloween events or Fall Festivals.  At each of these events candy will be handed out to guests.  Eighty percent of the events planned in our community are organized by local churches.  When it comes to Halloween, I think it's fair to say the church is one of the largest consumers of chocolate and will hand out more chocolate on Halloween than businesses or other organizations in America. 

What if we opted out of chocolate this year or decided to only pass out Fair Trade or organic chocolate? Almost all organic chocolate companies guarantee their supply chains are free of child slaves. Opting out of slave-harvested chocolate doesn't mean we can't participate in Halloween. There are other alternatives.  There are fair trade chocolate companies who value their farmers.  Saying "No" to chocolate harvested by enslaved children doesn't mean we can't love and serve our communities this fall.  Thankfully there are many other options and products to hand out during Halloween that do not contain chocolate and are not made by the same chocolate companies who are utilizing modern-day slaves in their supply chains.

These fair trade chocolates from Equal Exchange are only 23 cents each.

If you decide buying fairly traded chocolate is too expensive to pass out during Halloween, why not buy candy that isn't chocolate?  When doing so, remember that the following companies have the worst reputation when it comes to child slavery in their supply chains: Hersheys, Toblerone, Mars, Nestle, Whitman, Russel Stover, and the US division of Cadbury.  Many of these companies also market non-chocolate candies.

Our family's plan?  I can't imagine a Halloween without chocolate, but I also can't afford to pass out a lot of fair trade chocolate to the kids in my neighborhood.  I'll buy our family and friends some of our favorite fair trade candy bars (listed in the links below) and then buy a big bag of organic suckers (these are so yum!) to pass out to the kids in my neighborhood.

Yummy Earth Organic Suckers
True Story: I can eat 5 in a row.

How about some weekend links?  Can I link to some alternatives to chocolate for Halloween and brag about great Fair Trade candy companies? I'm really grateful companies that value their farmers and refuse to oppress the poor exist.  The first time I ever ate a fairly-traded chocolate bar (and an organic chocolate bar) I realized they are infinitely better than any of the other varieties of chocolate.  This shouldn't be surprising.  Companies who refuse to enslave children (or anyone) in order to make their chocolate are naturally going to care more about people and their product.  Their chocolate is incredible.  It's rich.  It's creamy.  It's nothing like the other stuff.

This is my favorite chocolate bar right now.  Whoever decided sea salt, toffee, and chocolate should meet deserves a holiday or parade in their honor.

I ate this for lunch today.  It was my reward for being alive and parenting.

This is such a great post about chocolate and Halloween.  Heaven help me, I love a metaphor.

This cocoa powder is heavenly.

These are cute and healthy.

These chocolate chips are delicious and sold in our neighborhood, non-fancy grocery store.  Maybe they are sold in your grocery store as well.  And guess what?  They are only a few cents more than the non-fairly traded chocolate chips.

These are adorable and would make the perfect preschool party snack.  

Why not stick these in our kids' lunches this month?  Fun!

This is a great article from 2008 about churches and fair trade chocolate.

This is another chocolate bar you should eat before you die.

This company offers those fabulous organic suckers at a great price.

This is a true story, and Audrey Hepburn has my heart until I die.

I think I'll make these for Halloween.  The neighbor kids may hate me, but whatev.

This is so insanely funny.  I laughed till I cried.  And they say the word "fudge" in it.  So it counts this week.

Happy Friday!  I will now drool my way into the weekend.  How about you?


It Feels Like Chaos said...

Thank you for sharing this, I've been wanting to get some organic lollipops for the kids (and possibly me). I just ordered the ones you recommended!

Erin H said...

So many thoughts about this have run through my head over the past year or so. Living in a huge city and being a member of my dearly loved big church with a big event like this has made me think about this exact thing. i think it would be amazing for churches to buy fair trade candy. i know at least our family can do something and buy safe treats! loving all these posts and so look forward to the rest of them. :-)

Paula Hong said...

What do you do about the candy your children collect when trick or treating? After being educated about this (by you last year) I don't feel right having our kids eat chocolate by the brands you mentioned, but I don't want to throw it away either. What to do with it all!?

Everly Pleasant said...

Any tips on where to buy fair-trade chocolate syrup? I have ditched Hershey's for organic, hoping that it is fair-trade, but I've found no promises. I don't want to give up my daily dose of chocolate milk, but I will if I have to. Any ideas?


Mindy Whipple said...

Thank you so much for sharing...

Jen said...

Caroline, have you tried drinking chocolate? It's basically cocoa powder that you can sweeten to your liking. Add to milk and it makes some of the best hot chocolate I've ever had! Dagoba is a yummy brand that carries the fair trade label.

Everly Pleasant said...

Jen: I will look into that! Thanks. :)

Anonymous said...

Heather! My heart and mind have been reeling for days after reading your post! It brings up so many convictions, questions, places of pride, and pulled heart strings! Thank you! Thank you!

On a less serious still relevant side note... do you know where nutella stands?

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