Friday, February 01, 2008

Putting the Heart Back in Valentine's Day... and Chocolate

We're on the cusp of another gigantic choco-holiday: Valentine's. As child slavery and other despicable labor practices plague the chocolate industry- I ask that you avoid the purchase of commodities (non-Fair Trade) chocolates. (See our November post explaining the issue in more detail.)

Here at Baby Toolkit central, we're celebrating with homemade sugar cookies and cupcakes. We're even having a decorating party with friends on the 13th. That gives us a bonus party!

But chocolate abstention isn't necessary. There's a third path: Certified Fair Trade chocolate. Fair Trade costs noticeably more out of our wallets, but it doesn't deprive children of homes, education, families, food, safety, freedom, love, and, well, childhood. In essence, non-FT chocolate is heavily subsidized at the expense of kids and communities in Africa. Fair Trade Certification confirms that the labeled product is produced in a manner that is legal and just.

So, if you want to invest in a better future for chocolate, Africa, and the world buy Fair Trade.


My brother and I were discussing fiction the other day, and he said "The people in fiction are the only ones who give me hope for the future."

Well, not to be a total sap, the real people on these fabulous interwebs play a similar role for me.

When Jim and I gave up chocolate in 2001, we encountered universal resistance. People would say "Why resist? You alone can't change this." And when we said, "So, join us..." they gave us incredulous looks like we were proposing splitting the atom with salad tongs and silly putty.

And I would wonder how our culture could shrug off CHILD SLAVERY (is there much more odious?). People in fiction were looking pretty amazing by comparison.

But you, Internet, brought me new hope. Here are some friends who've also quit commodities chocolate:
Beyond mod*mom's awesome contest- how else can I get Fair Trade products. Some churches have Fair Trade chocolate & coffee partnership programs: Lutheran (inter-synod via Lutheran World Relief), United Church of Christ, and Catholic. Not all congregations are aware of these programs... yet (you can change this).

Manufacturers like Global Exchange, Equal Exchange, Divine Chocolate, Dagoba, and Dean's Beans have online stores and listings of local retailers.

Happy Valentine's, everyone!

***Baby Toolkit is the independent, unsolicited opinion of some random geek parents. We're definitely not experts at this. We have no relationships with any of the chocolate companies represented within this post. Baby Toolkit, (c) 2008.


Kate said...

I feel like such a sheep, I had absolutely no idea. I shudder to think how much chocolate I have consumed over the course of my life.
I'll buy only fair trade from now on, and will ask anywhere I shop to stop carrying anything but.
Thanks for the information and the wake up call.

modmom said...

thank you so much for the inspiration, education + shout out :)
happy valentine's day!

Mimi & Moe's Mom said...

Can't thank you enough for telling us about this. It has changed my family's life! As for your brother, tell him your family gives mine hope for the future!

JJ said...

I've heard that single-origin chocolate from the Americas (Central/South) is slavery-free, because there's no slave labor.

There are also several companies known to have good practices, but have not pursued the pricey/lengthy certification.

I'm curious why you think the certification is necessary, rather than ensuring the chocolate is not African.

adrienne said...


Good question. My preferential solution remains a independent 3rd-party verified "Slavery-Free" labeling system (like dolphin-free tuna). When similar legislation was presented to congress in 2001, it was blown out of the water by influential chocolate industry lobbyists including Bob Dole. So fair trade is the best widespread option at present.

Most chocolate isn't labeled by country of origin. I don't know enough about labor practices in South/Central America to really speak about the fairness of their practices.

Cocoa, however, is a labor-intensive crop to harvest, so unfair labor practices are not necessarily geographically linked (though child slavery seems to be more rampant in some regions than others).

Fair Trade Certification means (to me) that an independent third party far better informed than me has evaluated this chocolate as less damaging than commodities chocolate. There are weaknesses to FTC (like labeling a product FTC when it only contains .5% FTC and 99.5% non-FTC- shame on you Seattle's Best- and 1% Starbucks).

The generally deceptive marketing and support of unfair labor practices by the chocolate industry convince me that 3rd party assessment is necessary to insure change. I'll accept the limitations of FTC until a better system is available.

I eat no chocolate myself, but abstinence doesn't help fair farmers and responsible companies.

A Greater Gift said...


I just wanted to thank you for including Divine Chocolate in your post! Happy Valentine's Day!

Jessica King
A Greater Gift

mel said...

Just stumbled onto your blog from parenthacks and am late to the commenting party on this post! Just wanted to let you know that Mennonite Central Committee's store, Ten Thousand Villages, sells fair trade products including chocolate and coffee. Cocoa Camino is the FT brand we buy most often.