During the past month, GBCS has partnered with fair-trade producer Equal Exchange to create and distribute an educational resource for families who purchase fair trade chocolate during the Halloween season.
Staff at GBCS produced a postcard which will be included with Equal Exchange's orders of fair trade dark chocolate "minis" during the month of October. The postcards are packaged in bundles of 50, so families can hand out postcards in trick-or-treat bags.
The content is intended to brief families (particularly those who may not be familiar with the concept of fair trade) on the realities of child slavery in the cocoa industry. On the reverse, the postcard encourages families to look for the fair trade certified logo on chocolate before buying it, and to urge their grocery stores to begin carrying fair trade chocolate on their shelves. It also directs recipients to resources for them to learn more about chocolate companies and the cocoa they buy and encourages them to share the news of fair trade chocolate to their families, schools, and places of worship.
Much of the cocoa that large chocolate companies use in their candy comes from poor countries in West Africa. Many of the cocoa farmers in these countries are trapped in poverty and unwillingly forced to rely on child labor, or even child slavery, to produce what they need to survive. Children as young as 5 years old have been trafficked into slavery. These children will not have the opportunity for education, and will likely not escape the cycle of poverty. A few companies control most of the U.S. chocolate candy market and refuse to pay cocoa farmers enough to sustain their families and pay their workers.
Equal Exchange uses only coffee, tea, sugar, cocoa, and chocolate produced by democratically run farmer co-ops in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. This ensures that money goes directly to the farmers and workers, not to middlemen as is the case with larger corporations. Environmentally and ecologically sustainable farming is also encouraged, and the company is committed to a minimum price, even when market values dip below such a price.
Equal Exchange also has partnerships with many places of worship around the country via what they call the "Interfaith Program" (www.equalexchange.com/interfaith). This program allows places of worship to purchase fair trade items to sell to their congregations as fundraisers in a just and sustainable way.
Buying products which have been traded fairly supports many of the tenants held in our denomination's Social Principles. For example, it affirms our support of the rights of individuals to prosper in rural settings, as well as our support of sustainable agriculture. It embodies our belief that we should equitably share the resources of the world and encourage corporate responsibility. And it upholds our commitment to the eradication of slavery everywhere.
The United Methodist Church publicly encourages the consumption of Fair Trade Certified products. The current Book of Discipline reads: "Consumers should avoid purchasing products made in conditions where workers are being exploited because of their age, gender, or economic status. And while the limited options available to consumers make this extremely difficult to accomplish, buying 'Fair Trade Certified' products is one sure way consumers can use their purchasing power to make a contribution to the common good" (Social Principles, ¶ 163 D). Similarly, the 2004 Book of Resolutions encourages consumption of fairly traded goods: "...in seeking an authentic Christian response to the plight of developing world small individual coffee farmers, their families, and their communities, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church urges all agencies of the church, local congregations and their affiliated organizations that use coffee to purchase coffee for corporate and personal use through the fair trade partner, Equal Exchange, or through another fair trade organization" (Resolution 199).
If you would like to learn more about chocolate companies and the cocoa they buy, visit the International Labor Rights Fund at www.laborrights.org.
To bring Fair Trade Certified products to your church, visit Equal Exchange's Interfaith Program at www.equalexchange.com/interfaith. To purchase fair trade chocolate and educational materials to hand out at Halloween this year, contact Equal Exchange:
50 United Drive
West Bridgewater, MA 02379