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Halloween Candy & Unethical Chocolate: So… What Should I Buy?

I’ve heard a bit over the last few years about chocolate being bad.

Not bad for you; not tasting bad (like the girl I saw walking by a chocolate fountain in my old grocery store job, who’s mom was “reminding” her that she “doesn’t like chocolate”: I’m not buying it!); but bad, like BAD for the world and the people in it.

(Photo: Peter Pearson)

Apparently, the global demand for chocolate – for example, mini chocolate bars like the ones we give out at Halloween – has skyrocketed. And with the desire for lots of chocolate for little money, the result has been bad news. Producers need to cut costs to meet the price demands, which has often resulted in child labour or slavery in West African, cocoa producing countries like Ghana & Côte d'Ivoire.

If you’re like me, you – quite frankly – don’t want to invest your heart in one more sad thing! I mean, children forced to make chocolate... there are no words.

Well, whether you want to find out more about it or not (here is a fantastic article which goes into more depth about the issue), you have an inkling that it is a problem. So, what can you do?

Ideas for Halloween alternatives to mainstream chocolate:

  • Buy the more expensive, fair trade, ethical little chocolate bars. Yes, you will get the hairy eyeball from most kids (not recognizing it), and the excellent quality of the chocolate will be lost on them. Fickle and unappreciative? Of course. Is it reality? Absolutely! But, you can feel 100% confident that the workers were valued, the land was not pillaged, and the whole process is very good. Sales in a boom time like Halloween will allow these businesses to continue their good work throughout the year.
  • Avoid chocolate altogether. If you have a sense of global chocolate problems, but don’t really want to go rogue with the fair trade bars, buy candy instead!
  • … although it must be noted that many mainstream candies (Twizzlers, Wonka, Maynards, etc.) are owned by the same global megabrands making bad, child labour chocolate. But, there are still loads of candies that are not: Tootsie, Fizz, Rockets, Ring Pops, even basic bulk bin lollipops. Or Candy Corn, unless you think it is gross. Which it is. ;)
  • If your neighbourhood is very community-oriented and trick-or-treaters are mostly local, do what my old neighbour did: homemade treats with a label featuring your name & phone number. Those caramel popcorn balls were awesome! It may sound weird in hyper-cautious 2014, but don’t forget – we’re living in the Pinterest age. Slap a cutesy free printable on there and the other moms will be happy that you read the same blog as they do!

  • In the least, don’t complain about the price of mini chocolate bars. As I have. A lot. Of course they are too pricey, and of course the corporation is making way too much money! But, if the global damage to the chocolate industry has come from pressure to decrease my price, do I really want it to be any lower? What sacrifices are made for me to pay the price I want (which is as close to nothing as possible)? ‘Cause let’s be honest, we really don’t spend very much on food.
  • Forego candy altogether: there are more and more creative options out there, like my city’s rec centers who sell heavily discounted booklets of pool passes for Halloween distribution. [Full disclosure: I will never do this. I don’t want to be known as that house that gives out toothbrushes or pennies (no matter how valuable they are). But, it's certainly an option!]

Like so many areas of life -- fashion, food, etc. -- holidays are certainly not immune from brokenness. The tension is there in the mix, but it doesn't have to spoil the fun.

If you've already purchased your Halloween candy, remember: no guilt! Just onwards. If my kids are any indication, an interest in free candy at Halloween is not going to disappear before next year! 

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