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I blog about my Catholic faith, my prayer life, good books and good movies.

Use Ethical Chocolate for Christmas Baking

Abigail Benjamin

from Maria (age 8)

The sweet taste of chocolate hides a bitter truth. Most chocolate purchased in the United States comes from Africian farms that use child slaves. Many children are kidnapped from their families and forced to work far away on small cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast. Children from age 8 to 16 are forced to spend all day with long knives, called machetes, to hand pick the cocoa pods used to make chocolate. These children work 80 to 100 hours a week. They never go to school. They are fed a poor diet. They can easily lose a finger or a hand in an accident. They are often beaten. They lose valuable time in their childhood to play, to dream, and grow in healthy adults.

Please consider a boycott of all chocolate that is made with child slave labor. Many chocolate companies are working hard to end child labor. Chocolate that is stamped with a Fair Trade, UTZ Certified, or Rainforest Alliance logo come from good chocolate farms. My Mom and I find affordable chocolate for baking and eating at our local Aldi's grocery store. We also buy Fair Trade Chocolate from Amazon online.

If you go to the grocery store and don't see UTZ certified chocolate for sale, please ask a clerk. Many people don't know about the child slavery problem.

My whole family loves chocolate. Sticking to this chocolate boycott for more than 16 weeks has been hard. We've developed our own "in pinch guidelines" for our family.

We decided that under no circumstances will we buy chocolate made from Hershey. This chocolate company has headquarters only a few miles from our house. Hershey's has one of the biggest gap between their family friendly corporate image and what they are actually doing to hepl end child slavery in Africa. One of the things that hurts our hearts the most is that Hershey offers a free boarding school to help needy American children, meanwhile the company engages in practices that hurt the same age children in Africa. All kids matter! For our research, it appears that Hershey single handly pushed back the deadline for anti-child slavery guidelines for All American Chocolate Companies from 2015 to 2020.

We do like Nestle. Nestle is not yet 100% Fair Trade, but the company has a good, transparent website that describes their anti-child slavery efforts in detail. Nestle is working hard to encourage all small farmers in Africa to send children to school instead of the cocoa fields.

Another company we like is Mars. Mars is attacking child slavery as part of its wider corporate sustainability effort. While Nestle has a lead on targeting child slavery as a problem, Mars is a world leader on responsible corporate behavior.

As a family, we work hard to buy UTZ certified chocolate or find other options to chocolate. "In a pinch" we buy Nestle chocolate chips and Twix bars. We have two family members who greatly miss Reese Peanut Butter Cups. Under our current family decisions, we can't buy a Hershey Chocolate Product until the full anti-child slavery laws come into effect in 2020. That's a long time to wait for a favorite chocolate bar! Ethics aren't easy. Stay tune for updates as we try to make our own subsitute Reese Peanut Butter Cup using Fair Trade Chocolate.