Michele Burlot has worked in the field of humanitarian assistance for nearly fifteen years, in both the government and non-profit sectors. She has traveled throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin American for her work and currently resides in Budapest, Hungary where she has completed a Master’s degree in Global Development and Social Justice. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to write to her at [email protected]
Chocolate Unwrapped -- How to have a Fair Trade Halloween
by Michele Burlot
In celebration of October’s designation as fair trade month, and in anticipation of the tons of candy people will buy for the “candiest” holiday there is, I wanted to share some ideas and resources about fair trade. It is interesting to inform both adults and children about this issue. Oftentimes, both groups are shocked to learn where their money goes when they pay for a cup of coffee or a candy bar. I know that I was. Let me share the secret of fair trade with you, in case you don’t already know it.
Fair trade examines and identifies the often lengthy consumer chain that ties a person who buys something (anything) to the person who produces it. It promotes products whose chain links are ethical and uphold the human rights and dignity of the people involved in the production process, and questions those that do not. In many instances, the chain is lengthy and can include not just individuals but middle men and corporations, many of whose practices can be suspect.
Let’s take an example that will interest children and open their eyes to the power they have when they hand over their money to buy a treat: CHOCOLATE. Most of the cocoa that gets turned into chocolate is produced in the impoverished region of West Africa. All of the major chocolate companies buy cocoa from this part of the world. The problem is that in many of these cocoa producing areas child labor – and even child slavery – is used. Writer, Alisa Rutherford-Fortunati, states, “For products like bananas and tea, fair trade is mostly a question of insuring that small farmers get a fair price for their products, but when it comes to cocoa the issues are even more serious. Slavery, child labor, kidnapping, injuries from unsafe working conditions, beatings and, at its worst, murder, are all in the mix. Knowing where your sweet treats come from means going beyond symbolic certifications.”[i]
With Halloween approaching, introducing the topic of fair trade to your children is perfect timing. Tex Dworkin, manager of the online store for fair trade organization Global Exchange says, “Halloween is an opportune time to educate children about Fair Trade and efforts to end child slavery around the world... Last year, we sold out of our first run of Halloween chocolate in three days. Consumers proved that when given a choice, they would make the right one, choosing Fair Trade chocolate for trick-or-treaters.”[ii] As the Fair Trade Coffee Company recommends, “… treat your Trick or Treaters to some Fair Trade Treats. By handing out fair trade certified candy, Divine chocolate (a fair trade brand of chocolate, see below) and fruit we can assure a fair deal for hundreds of thousands of farmers, artisans and their families world wide. In addition, through the fair trade practices of integrated crop management and organic cultivation, and the reduced use of pesticides and insecticides, the ecosystems of these severely depleted areas can begin to recover.”[iii]
- Educate yourself and your children on the issue of fair trade.
Worker-owned cooperative Equal Exchange has developed a 16-part fair trade curriculum for grades 4 through 9. Check it out here: http://www.equalexchange.coop/educationaltools
Another well-recognized fair trade organization, Global Exchange, also offers a curriculum, found here: http://www.globalexchange.org/fairtrade/cocoa/classroom.
You can also start your own Sweet Smarts chapter through Global Exchange and join a national network of youth groups that advocate for Fair Trade in their communities. Check it out here: http://www.globalexchange.org/fairtrade/cocoa/sweetsmarts
Be sure to poke around the rest of the Equal Exchange and Global Exchange websites as they have many interesting facts, stories, and ideas for engaging your kids in fair trade.
Check out the film, “The Dark Side of Chocolate.” Green America is one of several organizations that offer a screening kit, which includes a DVD of the 45-minute documentary film as well as discussion and action materials. You can order the kit (for $6, including shipping) and watch the trailer at: http://www.greenamerica.org/programs/fairtrade/MovieScreening.cfm
Ideas for screening venues for children in grades 6-12[iv] include classrooms, youth groups, Sunday school, and family night. You can also share the message through a brownbag screening at your office or with a group of friends, neighbors, or relatives – which will spread the word among adults, who are the purchasers of Halloween treats and who might also be inspired to educate their own children on the subject. In addition to watching the film and discussing it, you could incorporate a fair trade chocolate tasting into the event.
Some faith groups offer specific materials that tie fair trade into the tenets of their faith. For instance:
You can get a free downloadable Jewish supplement to the Equal Exchange curriculum noted above at: http://www.equalexchange.coop/ifPDF/JewishSupplementforEECurriculum.pdf
Catholic Relief Services provides some downloadable handouts relating fair trade to Catholic Social Teaching: http://www.crsfairtrade.org/resources/
A 40-page Bible study guide is available for $6, including shipping, at: http://www.partnersforjusttrade.org/ht/d/sp/i/277/pid/277
Many faith groups have fair trade programs. Links to a great many are found at the top of the following web page: http://www.equalexchange.coop/interfaith-educational-resources
- Go fair trade this Halloween
Although fair trade chocolate can be a bit more expensive than bargain basement prices of large treat bags sold by major chocolate companies this time of year, check out some resources to see if you can manage to go all, or at least part, fair trade.
Stores and brands:
Many of the brick and mortar stores that carry fair trade chocolate may or may not have treat sizes available. Fair trade brands to look out for include Divine, Green & Black’s, Endangered Species, Newman’s Own Organics, and Whole Foods’ store brand. Whole Foods often carries Divine in addition to their own brand, and many Duane Reade stores carry both Divine and Green & Black’s. If a brand is fair trade, it will always be indicated on the packaging by the Fair Trade Certified logo. Ideally, look for the words fair trade certified, not just fair trade, in order to ensure that all fair trade standards have been met. Note that just like unfairly traded chocolate, each person’s taste preferences are different, so a tasting party is always a good idea!
Online stores offer a greater selection and include some treat sizes:
On Endangered Species’ online store, you can buy bags of their milk chocolate Halloween treats – containing 24 individually wrapped pieces for $6.99 at: http://chocolatebar.com/products.php?product=Milk-Chocolate-Halloween-Treats and pouches of 10 individually wrapped milk chocolate squares for $3.29 at: http://chocolatebar.com/products.php?product=3.5oz.-All%252dNatural-Smooth-Milk-Chocolate-Pouch . In addition to being fairly traded and organic, a percentage of the purchase price is donated to environmental nonprofit organizations.
Visit Natural Candy Store at: http://www.naturalcandystore.com/category/fair-trade-chocolate-candy to order a variety of fair trade treats, including discounted Divine white chocolate and strawberry medallions – a package of 22 for $2.99 and Divine milk chocolate coins – $2.79 for a bag of 13.
Equal Exchange’s Interfaith store for congregations offers boxes of 150 milk chocolate minis for $24.99 at: http://interfaith.equalexchange.com/ProductInfo.aspx?productid=18612 and their regular retail store prices them at $35: http://shop.equalexchange.com/ProductInfo.aspx?productid=18612
Global Exchange’s online store was temporarily offline for updating at the time of this writing, but hopefully it will be back up soon! http://www.globalexchangestore.org/Fair-Trade-Trick-or-Treat-Action-Kit-p/gp5400.htm
Try YummyEarth organic candy products at: http://yummyearth.com/ Though they don’t carry chocolate, their great variety of all-natural lollipops and other individually-wrapped confections will satisfy your trick-or-treaters’ sweet teeth in a healthier way.
Try some fair trade recipes: Check out Green & Black’s online recipes for fair trade cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and more: http://greenandblacks.com/us/recipes/online-recipes.html and Divine Chocolate’s recipes at: http://www.divinechocolateusa.com/recipes/default.aspx
- Advocate for fair trade school fundraisers
Write a letter to World’s Finest Chocolates, the company many schools and other organizations use for fundraisers, asking them to become Fair Trade Certified http://www.globalexchange.org/fairtrade/cocoa/worldsfinest. For an even greater impact, ask your school and PTA to write letters as well. Switching to a fair trade fundraiser may or may not be feasible cost-wise, but Equal Exchange does offer a program you can check out: http://www.equalexchange.coop/equal-exchange-fundraising It’s always a good idea to sample the chocolate before committing to the fundraiser to make sure you think customers will appreciate the flavors.
- Make Hershey Fair Trade
Join the campaign to make Hershey Fair Trade: http://www.raisethebarhershey.org/
Keep in mind other fair trade products, such as coffee, tea, and handicraft items, especially as the Christmas holidays near. Check out Serrv’s online store at: http://www.serrv.org/ and Ten Thousand Villages’ online store: http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/
As you can see, there are many fun and tasty options to try out as you help educate your children to become conscientious consumers who are knowledgeable about, and more connected with, our world. And we might learn a thing or two along the way as well. This Halloween is the perfect time to start.
[iv] It is recommended for an adult to pre-screen the video to ensure you personally find it appropriate for children. Green America lists it as suitable for grades 6-12, per http://www.greenamerica.org/programs/fairtrade/ClassroomActivities.cfm