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Churches push fair-trade chocolates for Halloween

USA Today
Halloween’s a time for pumpkins, costumes, and — if some faith-based groups have their way this year — global market awareness.

Faith organizations and congregations around the country are promoting fair-trade chocolate for trick-or-treaters to raise consciousness about conditions and prices for cocoa farmers around the world.

“This is an example of how everybody has the ability to make some change,” said Susan Burton, who works for the the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society in Washington.

Last year, Burton found a postcard encouraging fair trade chocolate in her 3-year-old’s trick-or-treat bag.

“I just thought what a timely and creative way to promote this,” Burton said.

Now, Burton’s office and the United Methodist Committee on Relief have with joined Equal Exchange, a cooperative that sells fairly traded products, to promote mini-chocolates in special trick-or-treat bags for Halloween.

The treats can be purchased online, along with postcards detailing fair trade awareness, to pass out to trick-or-treaters at the door.

“Our hope is that it’s an educational tool,” Burton said.

The fair-trade Halloween chocolate efforts put the emphasis on the injustices of forced child labor on cocoa farms in West Africa. The fairly traded cocoa, sponsors say, is “monitored from the farmers to the store shelf,” by groups like FLO International and TransFair USA. The watchdog groups monitor standards and certify producers, ensuring no child labor or forced labor was used in the cocoa production and that farmers are paid enough.

“It helps remind us to be conscious of consumerism,” Burton said.

Burton’s office is distributing 75,000 postcards to spread awareness about the issue and promote the purchase of Halloween candy at Equal Exchange’s online store.

Fair trade as a movement has gained momentum in recent years through nonprofits and religious groups around the country that encourage the sale of products, most often coffee. Advocates hope that promoting fairly traded exports will encourage sustainable living and development opportunities in the poorest regions of the world, providing small-scale farmers with a livable wage.

“It’s creating awareness of mission on a socio-economic scale,” said Ellen Comstock, a pastoral counselor and member of Centenary United Methodist Church in Portsmouth, Va. Her church will be participating in the Halloween program for the second year in a row.

“What we do affects the global market, and this makes us aware of what our luxury does in terms of creating poverty for some people,” Comstock said.

The United Methodist Church isn’t the only group focused on fair trade at Halloween. Others are urging “reverse trick-or-treating” for children to give back fair-trade chocolate to the homes they visit.

“It’s a way to educate kids to give something back, kind of two birds with one stone,” said Andrew Korfhage of the non-profit Co-op America Foundation.

This is the second year Co-op America has partnered with nonprofit and faith-based groups to promote the Halloween activity and send out candy kits through Global Exchange, a human rights organization and online store. Co-op America estimates that at least 250,000 kits will be distributed to the United States and Canada this Halloween.


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