Simply in Season

News and reflections on all that's good about local food
from the co-author of Simply in Season,
a World Community Cookbook in the spirit of More-with-Less

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Scary chocolate for Halloween

A quick note about the Pacific Northwest Regional Peace Gathering coming this Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 26-28, to Albany (Ore.) Mennonite Church. I'll be presenting a workshop on Saturday (last I checked, the posted schedule hadn't been corrected yet) and would be happy for folks to stop by.

What is a workshop about food doing in a peace conference?

We'll talk about what it means to "eat justly" today, and how we can make food choices that benefit, rather than harm, those who farm. It's pretty hard to claim to love our neighbors when buying foods that poison them. (Just this month a new study came out in Canada, showing that women who had worked on farms were nearly three times as likely as other women to develop breast cancer.)

One of the things I always talk about is that it's really important to take this food journey one step at a time. We can't expect to completely transform our eating habits overnight; it simply won't last. But we can work on one thing for a while, then another, and over time look back and see, wow, I really do eat differently than I used to.

For the last number of months, I've been working on a couple of areas. One is to transition away from refined sugar to use more local honey. (It isn’t hard – it’s just a matter of thinking about it. Here are some useful tips.)

The other is to wean myself off of cheap chocolate chips. Our family has completely switched over to fair trade coffee now (and we are fortunate to live in a town where many coffeehouses only serve fair trade coffee), but the switch to fair trade chocolate has been harder. I can so easily be lured by 99-cent bags of chocolate chips.

I was given a boost of encouragement yesterday on this when I did some reading again about the chocolate industry and child slavery. Talk about scary.

One of the most recent updates about chocolate – not encouraging news, alas – comes in an interview with a representative from Equal Exchange. If this issue is new to you, this link isn’t a bad place to start for an overview (use a page search to skip down to "Willy Wonka").

We can only hope that the recent sale of Dagoba to Hershey doesn’t result in farmers failing to get a fair price for their cocoa beans – the company founder and CEO says it won’t.

Global Exchange encourages children to make a difference with chocolate trade issues – a nice contrast to the groups who send children out to sell M&M/Mars or Nestle candy bars as fundraisers.

But beyond activism, at least the Halloween candy we hand out this year can be fair trade. The scary thing about Halloween shouldn't be the chocolate (this link includes a table of different fair trade brands and where they're available).

Those 99-cent bags of chocolate chips are cheap for a reason, and it’s anything but sweet. I find myself repeating this prayer (from Blessed Be Our Table) as I walk down the baking aisle:

Let me not seek a bargain that leaves others hungry.

Here are some fair trade Halloween links:

Global Exchange
Co-op America
The Green Guide
Organic Consumers Association
Catholic Relief Services


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