Halloween Treat Alternatives

Reverse Trick or Treating cards with fair trade chocolate

Reverse Trick or Treating cards with fair trade chocolate

Before our children are developmentally able to focus on consequences, it’s up to us to help them see alternatives to immediate choices. We can shift focus from GIMME CANDY to things and ideas that will still satisfy in other ways.

I usually welcome my children to have a small amount of Halloween candy. My son has started to realize that he feels very emotional when he has too much sugar. He doesn’t like the feeling of being out of control, so he limits his own candy consumption. His self regulation is a step in the right direction, but I still do what I can to help out. This year, I have more ideas how to divert the candy stream without the result of sad little faces of children deprived of non-nutritive food-like substances.


1. Gifts from the Magic Pumpkin

Nature Mom recently told me the story of the Magic Pumpkin that visits her house each year.

“I had been able to swap out my kids’ collected loot for the first 2 years, but my 5-year old started to catch on last year. So, we changed our tactic and told her we had learned that if we left her collected candy out at night for the Magic Pumpkin to eat, he would leave her something else in its place.

“The idea came from another parent, and I was amazed at how well it went over. We let her pick 3 candies to keep for herself, and she left the rest out for the night. When she fell asleep, we swapped out her candy for a Halloween story book and hair ties.

“I’m hopeful she’ll want to try this again come Halloween. Last year my 4-year old was a willing participant. I think the key is to make the goodies left by the Magic Pumpkin as fun and enticing as candy might be. I love this idea because you can tailor the treats or gifts to your own children.”

Shifts focus from GIMME CANDY
to SWEET MEMORIES OF A NICE HOLIDAY


2. Candy Experiments

If you know your child will end up with a bag of candy, and you want to lower the sugar impact, consider diverting the candy from the usual hand-to-mouth race. You could teach them a little science.

Candy Experiments can lead you through dissolving, melting, baking, smashing, cracking, and otherwise destroying candy in the name of science. You can use a coffee filter and dyed candy for chromatography. Dissolve Skittles to determine color density to make a pretty rainbow of unnatural dyes. And, those with patience can watch chocolate bloom as the fats separate out into little circles. They explain not just the what and how but the why.

If you are in Washington, D.C., this weekend, join them at the USA Science and Engineering Festival to see some of these experiments for yourself.

Shifts focus from GIMME CANDY TO EAT
to WHAT IS THIS STUFF, ANYWAY?


3. Fair Trade Chocolate

I love chocolate. I don’t love the labor issues that come with chocolate. I worry about treating children with a food that other children have suffered to produce.

So, this year my family is Reverse Trick or Treating with a kit we ordered from Global Exchange. When my children go door to door, they will give an information card to people at the first 15 houses so they can learn about fair trade chocolate. There is a piece of chocolate attached to each card as well. Yes, our neighbors expect this kind of thing from us!

Shifts focus from GIMME CANDY
to I CARE ABOUT OTHER CHILDREN IN THE WORLD


4. Family Party

I have been informed by my son that not only will we be having pumpkin soup for Halloween, we will be having orange rolls and sloppy buffalo joes. After one year, this has become a requirement. I’m thrilled to see that his focus for the day is on nutritious food.

In my fantasy world, I also make homemade candy. About a month ago I made a mild, homemade licorice with fennel from our garden. It tasted great (to both adults) and looked wonderful.

That’s the good news.

I didn’t roll it in sugar or flour as the recipes all suggested. So, follows the bad news. I put some of the licorice in mason jar—and it all melted into a solid mass that is far to hard to even extract from the jars. I had saved a small jar to give Nature Mom when I saw her last week, but it is such a sad, solid, sludgy mess that I didn’t want to embarrass myself with it. (She won’t even know this unless she reads the post!)

So, I would take homemade licorice if I: 1) made it fresh, or 2) gave in and rolled it in flour or sugar. I’m thinking I’ll stick with the homemade orange bread rolls with tiny green bread stems.

This year, we will be taking our nutritious holiday food and spending the Saturday night before Halloween with a group of families who (we hope) will enjoy our contributions to a big dinner. Rather than a planned raid of the neighborhood, we’re off to have fun.

Shifts focus from GIMME CANDY
to COMMUNITY FUN

Imports at What Cost? Labour

The cost of cheap products is unfair labour

When we reach for cheap products, they don’t cost any less than the expensive products. They just externalize costs—that is, someone else pays the true cost of the product. When the factor that allows the cost to stay low is labour, the person who works in the field or in the factory for less than a fair wage is the one who pays. The real cost of goods includes the consequences of unpaid labor.

Give It To Me Quick

Outsourcing labour and importing cheap goods can mean that workers who produce those goods are not fairly paid. Those workers pay the real cost of cheap imports.


Labour Issues

Labour issues can range from workers fighting for a living wage and a degree of autonomy to the far other end with child labor and slave labor. When we don’t know the details, it’s easier to cover up the realities by calling this smart business, but you need to hear the details. The details will break your heart and change your shopping habits.

The Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) publishes a “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.” All products included on this list are documented to be made with child labor or forced labor. If you want to understand the consequences of worker exploitation in the name of cutting costs, skim this report.

Look at the labels on your child’s clothing. Are the clothes made in countries known to use slave labor or child labor? You will need to check in three places, because the list is broken down by different stages in the production cycle, such as agriculture or extraction (cotton), processing (textiles or fabric), and manufacturing (garments or clothing). In China, textiles can be produced by child labor, garments by forced labor, and cotton by both. In Egypt, cotton can be produced by child labor. In India, embroidered textiles can be produced by both, silk fabric and silk thread produced by child labor, and garments by both. In Pakistan, cotton can be produced by forced labor. Are your child’s clothes made in China, Egypt, India, or Pakistan?

It seems illogical that such labor abuses would be allowed, but you’ve probably heard the arguments for lowering costs by outsourcing. The global economic crisis contributes to this exploitation as companies look for ways to squeeze their costs and keep profits up. Desperate workers are exploited. Unfortunately, economic crisis also leads to cutting budgets for social protection mechanisms, so those who would normally prevent the exploitation do not. By raising public awareness, ILAB gives you the information you need to create pressure on manufacturers to stop exploitation.

The key is awareness—your awareness and my awareness as consumers.

Sometimes when we hear about working conditions in the factories where the products we buy are made, we are subject to a carefully controlled promotion of conditions—to propaganda. When we at bynature.ca ask hard-hitting questions about the China-made products that we carry, we hope that we are learning the truth. One benefit of buying closer to home is the trust we can build between producer and buyer. That trust relationship is interrupted or just broken when we import from factories we have not seen.


Product Focus: Candy

I am concerned that a lot of the countries where cloth diapers are being produced overseas then imported to North America are on the list of known labour abusers—China, Egypt, India, and Pakistan. I haven’t yet been able to trace any of these abuses through the supply chain, though, so I’m going to use a different product as an example of what can happen when we are not vigilant: candy.

This time of year, candy is likely on many parents’ minds. Think about this before you buy candy for Halloween. Over the past decade, the fact of slave labor and child labor in cocoa production in West Africa has been in the news consistently. Growing public awareness has meant pressure on mainstream chocolate producers to use only fair trade chocolate. Knowing that the dark side of cheap chocolate is child labour might make you hesitate to grab bags of miniature chocolate bars at the grocery store for treat-or-treaters.

Can you still buy ethical chocolate? Absolutely. There are quite a few small chocolate brands that use fair trade cocoa. In the mainstream, Cadbury and Nestle each produce one fair trade chocolate bar (for the UK market). Green & Blacks use only fair trade chocolate. Pressure on North American Hershey’s has intensified through sites like Raise the Bar Hershey. Just last week, Whole Foods dropped Hershey’s high-end chocolates because Hershey’s couldn’t assure them that the chocolate was free from slave-labour and child-labour.

The news for mainstream candy is not all bad. The same day their high-end chocolate was dumped by Whole Foods, Hershey’s announced their intention to source 100% certified cocoa by 2020. Their commitment is a step in the right direction. By the time your toddler is cruising the neighborhood alone on Halloween, you can pick up that bag of miniature chocolate bars and know that the cocoa your child will eat was not picked by another child forced into labour.


An Alternative: Fair Trade Candy

We don’t give our children a lot of sweets, but, when we do, we want to feel good about it. bynature.ca carries Glee Gum products, including the original chewing gum, which is Fairtrade certified, and their kits to make your own gum and make your own chocolate. We feel great about Glee Gum as a company. They are based in the U.S., and we love the educational materials they provide. When you buy Glee Gum, you are supporting a company that looks at the overall sustainability of the products.


Go-to Organizations

Many organizations are working internationally to reduce then eradicate labor abuse, to protect the most vulnerable people in our society. Among the organizations working on the larger issue of global labour abuse is the Worker Rights Consortium (worker focused). Global Exchange works on Fair Trade issues (product focused), educating the public to demand fair trade goods, including cocoa.


What You Can Do

Research the products you buy, share what you learn, and choose products wisely. Yes, it does sometimes cost more to buy Made in Canada and Made in USA goods, and, no, that is not always a guarantee of fair labour, but your choices and your voice do make a difference as you spread what you learn. Do a local search on Etsy. Buy at local craft shows and farmers’ markets. Learn the name of the person who made your stuff. Build that trust relationship. If you buy imported products, such as sweets like chocolate and gum, make sure they are fair trade certified.

One aspect of true, long-term sustainability must be a dignity and a living wage at every point along the supply chain. As long as we buy cheap products that externalize the real costs, we have not yet reached true sustainability.


Resources

More in this series

Image © Paul Prescott | Dreamstime.com. Young textile worker in a small factory in Old Delh on February 26, 2008 in Delhi, India. Working age in this factory is from 16 to 71 years old.

Halloween Treat Alternatives

Reverse Trick or Treating cards with fair trade chocolate

Reverse Trick or Treating cards with fair trade chocolate

Before our children are developmentally able to focus on consequences, it’s up to us to help them see alternatives to immediate choices. We can shift focus from GIMME CANDY to things and ideas that will still satisfy in other ways.

I usually welcome my children to have a small amount of Halloween candy. My son has started to realize that he feels very emotional when he has too much sugar. He doesn’t like the feeling of being out of control, so he limits his own candy consumption. His self regulation is a step in the right direction, but I still do what I can to help out. This year, I have more ideas how to divert the candy stream without the result of sad little faces of children deprived of non-nutritive food-like substances.


1. Gifts from the Magic Pumpkin

Nature Mom recently told me the story of the Magic Pumpkin that visits her house each year.

“I had been able to swap out my kids’ collected loot for the first 2 years, but my 5-year old started to catch on last year. So, we changed our tactic and told her we had learned that if we left her collected candy out at night for the Magic Pumpkin to eat, he would leave her something else in its place.

“The idea came from another parent, and I was amazed at how well it went over. We let her pick 3 candies to keep for herself, and she left the rest out for the night. When she fell asleep, we swapped out her candy for a Halloween story book and hair ties.

“I’m hopeful she’ll want to try this again come Halloween. Last year my 4-year old was a willing participant. I think the key is to make the goodies left by the Magic Pumpkin as fun and enticing as candy might be. I love this idea because you can tailor the treats or gifts to your own children.”

Shifts focus from GIMME CANDY
to SWEET MEMORIES OF A NICE HOLIDAY


2. Candy Experiments

If you know your child will end up with a bag of candy, and you want to lower the sugar impact, consider diverting the candy from the usual hand-to-mouth race. You could teach them a little science.

Candy Experiments can lead you through dissolving, melting, baking, smashing, cracking, and otherwise destroying candy in the name of science. You can use a coffee filter and dyed candy for chromatography. Dissolve Skittles to determine color density to make a pretty rainbow of unnatural dyes. And, those with patience can watch chocolate bloom as the fats separate out into little circles. They explain not just the what and how but the why.

If you are in Washington, D.C., this weekend, join them at the USA Science and Engineering Festival to see some of these experiments for yourself.

Shifts focus from GIMME CANDY TO EAT
to WHAT IS THIS STUFF, ANYWAY?


3. Fair Trade Chocolate

I love chocolate. I don’t love the labor issues that come with chocolate. I worry about treating children with a food that other children have suffered to produce.

So, this year my family is Reverse Trick or Treating with a kit we ordered from Global Exchange. When my children go door to door, they will give an information card to people at the first 15 houses so they can learn about fair trade chocolate. There is a piece of chocolate attached to each card as well. Yes, our neighbors expect this kind of thing from us!

Shifts focus from GIMME CANDY
to I CARE ABOUT OTHER CHILDREN IN THE WORLD


4. Family Party

I have been informed by my son that not only will we be having pumpkin soup for Halloween, we will be having orange rolls and sloppy buffalo joes. After one year, this has become a requirement. I’m thrilled to see that his focus for the day is on nutritious food.

In my fantasy world, I also make homemade candy. About a month ago I made a mild, homemade licorice with fennel from our garden. It tasted great (to both adults) and looked wonderful.

That’s the good news.

I didn’t roll it in sugar or flour as the recipes all suggested. So, follows the bad news. I put some of the licorice in mason jar—and it all melted into a solid mass that is far to hard to even extract from the jars. I had saved a small jar to give Nature Mom when I saw her last week, but it is such a sad, solid, sludgy mess that I didn’t want to embarrass myself with it. (She won’t even know this unless she reads the post!)

So, I would take homemade licorice if I: 1) made it fresh, or 2) gave in and rolled it in flour or sugar. I’m thinking I’ll stick with the homemade orange bread rolls with tiny green bread stems.

This year, we will be taking our nutritious holiday food and spending the Saturday night before Halloween with a group of families who (we hope) will enjoy our contributions to a big dinner. Rather than a planned raid of the neighborhood, we’re off to have fun.

Shifts focus from GIMME CANDY
to COMMUNITY FUN

Chocolate – It’s About Dignity and Sustainability

Child with ChocolateMmm. Chocolate. Valentine’s Day approaches, and there are many opportunities to indulge in a little piece of delight as it melts at your body temperature spreading across your tongue. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, chocolate bars, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate nibs, chocolate cake. I adore chocolate.

Once your body chemistry returns to its pre-cocoa levels, or even before you indulge, you might ask where the chocolate came from.

International Fair Trade Certification MarkA movement toward more ethical consumer choices leaves us asking not just whether what we buy and consume is good for us but whether it is good for all of those who moved it along the way, those who produced, traded, processed, and packaged it.

When I wrote about green certifications in the fall, I was really motivated by the confusing number of eco-seals that I see on products. In some cases, I think the proliferation of seals is just typical of what happens early as the problem has been recognized and the solutions are still many.

There are a couple of agricultural commodities whose labelling systems have matured enough that one or two seals have become recognized by consumers and many consumers even understand what those seals mean. When we buy coffee and chocolate, it is now very easy to learn what fair trade certification means for us and for producers.

Fair Trade Certified MarkGlobally, except in Canada and the U.S., the blue and green International Fair Trade Certification mark identifies a variety of products that meet standards. In Canada and the U.S., look for the black and white Fair Trade Certified mark for now.


Coffee as the Example

Coffee was the first global agricultural commodity to move through a clear labelling process. Because of the maturity of the movement to make consumers aware of their choices with coffee, the issues have been made clear:

  • Fair Trade – promoting broad sustainability for producers by meeting payment, social, and environmental standards
  • Shade-grown – diversity of trees and plants in a forest where coffee is grown traditionally supports diversity of bird life and doesn’t need the chemical inputs that can create toxic runoff.
  • Organic – sustainability in the field and potentially a better choice for consumers’ health.

This isn’t just a nice way to be nice so everyone feels nice. This is a response to the exploitation of small farmers by large coffee companies, paying them less for their coffee than it costs to produce. Debt and poverty that result have clear consequences in the places of production—all so cheap coffee can be shipped around the world.

Improve conditions for producers
>
label the products that come from improved conditions
>
then educate consumers

I would like to believe that most people understand their responsibility for the products they buy. A Fair Trade label helps us as consumers to accept our responsibility and choose not to exploit producers.


Which Brings Us to Fair Trade Chocolate

Often following the example of coffee, the movement to label chocolate as Fair Trade has grown in the past decade.

The situation with chocolate production, however, seems far more dire than with coffee. Reports beginning about ten years ago of child slavery in some west African cocoa production helped chocolate consumers become more aware of the conditions of children in cocoa production. It doesn’t appear that much progress has been made during that time except in the movement to shift to fair trade chocolate.

It seems to me that the key is educating the consumers, even the smallest consumers, about where their food and treats come from so they can create more demand for the large producers to improve conditions at the point of production. In the meantime, we can bypass the large producers to reach the farmers who have a measure of autonomy in their work by making sure that when we do buy chocolate (or coffee), we do buy Fair Trade.

Children are often the consumers of chocolate. It’s important to educate them honestly and without fear as a motivator. The fact of child slavery and exploitation of children in the production of chocolate can make this topic more real for a child. In a poll of my two children, 100% of respondents replied that they could easily give up chocolate if they knew it was produced by child labor of any kind, let alone child slaves.

Oh, yes, I still adore chocolate. But the pleasure of the sweet treat is not worth the pain of exploitation. Fair Trade chocolate is the answer if you are going to have chocolate this Valentine’s Day.


Resources

  • Global Exchange has a free Fair Trade Chocolate Curriculum available for download. There is also a drawing for teachers who use the curriculum to win fair trade chocolate and educational materials for their classrooms. They are encouraging “Sweet Smarts” in children by teaching them about chocolate, fair trade, and consumer advocacy.
  • New American Dream has a list of Fair Trade chocolate.
  • My old town Buffalo, New York, has a Chocolate Revolution coming up next week. It’s an evening of music and fair trade chocolate, sponsored in part by my old food co-op, the Lexington Food Co-op. Oh! I miss Buffalo. Using a celebration of chocolate to educate the public is a great combination.

Image © Greenland | Dreamstime.com