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Chesapeake woman spreads fair trade candy on Halloween

The Virginian-Pilot, VA

As her boys stroll door-to-door hollering “trick or treat” this Halloween, Katherine Johnke will be right behind them with another message: “Fair trade chocolate!”

Johnke, 38, of Chesapeake, will give homeowners chocolates guaranteed not to be produced with child labor or unfair pricing for farmers.

The candy is promoted by her church, Centenary United Methodist Church, as part of a campaign to support fair trade products that don’t exploit Third World growers. The church is at 3312 Cedar Lane in Portsmouth.

Participating congregants plan to give the 19-cent chocolates to trick-or-treaters, or have their own children give the candy to homeowners. Each treat includes a card describing the Fair Trade philosophy and cocoa industry practices.

“I like the opportunity to get people thinking about where all of our stuff comes from,” said Johnke, who lives in Chesapeake’s Western Branch. “The truth is that many people suffer horrible working conditions and living conditions in order to keep us afloat in cheap stuff.”

Touting fair trade chocolate for Halloween is a collaboration between the United Methodist Church and Equal Exchange, a Massachusetts-based cooperative that emphasizes fair trade practices.

According to Equal Exchange’s Web site, nearly 250,000 households in the United States and Canada will receive fair trade candies on Halloween in a reverse trick- or-treat like Johnke’s.

Several South Hampton Roads churches already promote, use or sell fair trade coffee. Ten Thousand Villages, a nationwide nonprofit retailer selling fair trade art, jewelry and handcrafted items, has a store in Newport News.

At Centenary, the Rev. Ellen Comstock said Halloween is a timely opportunity to educate people about the true cost of frills such as trick-or-treat candy.

“For me, there’s a real justice issue,” said Comstock, who is Centenary’s minister of discipleship and a pastoral counselor. “Our luxury is provided by someone – a child – who does not get a fair wage.”

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