Each October, we are reminded why we love chocolate. On Halloween, children flood the streets in their spookiest costumes, racing each other to get the biggest, sweetest, and (often) chocolatiest treats. As adults, we are also tempted to release our inner kid and throw our diets out the window to indulge during this sugary holiday. But October is also National Fair Trade Month, so in this haste to consume the mounds of treats collected from our neighbors, or when snacking on our own stash as we wait for the doorbell to ring, we should take a moment to think about where our chocolate comes from.
Chocolate comes from cocoa beans, which can only grow in hot, rainy places (like the tropics). They are mostly grown and harvested in Central America, South America, and West Africa—areas that are often beautiful, but struggle with poverty in agricultural communities. Farmers there commonly face small profit margins, high market volatility, subpar working conditions, and chemical exposure from industrial pesticides. Community members often lack access to healthcare, and it is not unusual for children to be out in the fields instead of in school. But chocolate isn’t the only product with these issues—producers of tea, coffee, and other crops face similar challenges.
Fair Trade organizations use a market-based approach to alleviate some of these poverty-related problems through trade. To consumers, a Fair Trade certification communicates that the good in question was produced in a more socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable way (and has undergone a verification process). To producers, Fair Trade standards support the community by offering price minimums to support farmers in unstable markets, providing frameworks for environmental sustainability, prohibiting child labor, and contributing premiums toward community development projects such as improving access to education and healthcare.
Click here to learn more about Fair Trade and how Bon Appétit is supporting Fair Trade initiatives.