Friday, October 22, 2010

Grab Bag Friday: Fair Trade and Halloween, or Why I Can't Buy Hershey this Year

After much discussion and waffling in my house, here is what we are giving out for Halloween: Endangered Species Chimp Mints, Bug Bites, and a 5 pound bag of YummyEarth Organic Lollipops.

Endangered Species Bug Bites, Organic Milk Chocolate, 0.35-Ounce Packages (Pack of 64)YummyEarth Organic Lollipops, Assorted Flavors (15 Count), 3-Ounce Pouches (Pack of 6)Endangered Species Chimp Mints, Organic Dark Chocolate & Mint, 0.35-Ounce Packages (Pack of 64)

Where are the Heath Bars? The Resees? The Take 5 bars that Kevin and I usually pick out and stash in the cupboard for ourselves? And why on earth would we choose to spend $30 more than usual on Halloween candy?

We admit, it's a crunchy move. Possibly risky (city-boy Kevin is a bit worried about his youthful TP karma coming back to haunt him). But the reality is that you vote with your dollars. And during Free Trade Month, I've learned a lot about big chocolate companies that makes the thought of eating another Take 5 bar more than a little sickening.

Last month, John Robbins wrote an article in the Huffington Post titled Is There Slavery in Your Chocolate? A little sensationalist, huh? Sadly, not really. Robbins writes this about the children who are sold to the cocoa farms that Hershey buys from:

"These children, usually 11-to-16-years-old but sometimes younger, are forced to do hard manual labor 80 to 100 hours a week. They are paid nothing, receive no education, are barely fed, are beaten regularly, and are often viciously beaten if they try to escape. Most will never see their families again."
Then later, he puts it into another perspective:
"Buying cocoa from farms that employ such abusive child labor practices enables Hershey to keep its costs down and its profits up. In early 2010, the company reported a 54 percent jump in profits because of what it called 'improved supply-chain efficiencies.'"
While other candy companies have begun to come around to the idea of free trade, Hershey has been incredibly obstinate. One of my good friends who is an incredible chocolate maker (more like chocolate artist) recently explained it like this "From what I understand, Hershey basically said that its really sad what happens over there, but we can't control what they do, so we are going to buy it from them anyway."

Last month, Hershey tried to do some damage control by putting out a "Corporate Social Responsibility Report," but critics say the report did nothing to change Hershey's policies, their lack of transparency about where they buy their cocoa, or to shift their purchasing power to plantations that employ fair labor practices. Global Exchange put out an official response to the Hershey report, urging them to try harder.

So what can be done? The Huffington Post article outlines a number of actions that you can take and urges us to spend our chocolate dollars wisely. Why not start with Halloween? Here's a list of companies listed by HuffPo:
"Purchase chocolate products from companies who only use cocoa that has definitively not been produced with slave labor. These companies include Clif Bar, Cloud Nine, Dagoba Organic Chocolate, Denman Island Chocolate, Divine Chocolate, Equal Exchange, Gardners Candies, Green and Black's, John & Kira's, Kailua Candy Company, Koppers Chocolate, L.A. Burdick Chocolates, Montezuma's Chocolates, NewLeaf Chocolates, Newman's Own Organics, Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company, Rapunzel Pure Organics, Shaman Chocolates, Sweet Earth Chocolates, Taza Chocolate, The Endangered Species Chocolate Company, and Theo Chocolate."

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