The science of yummy, the practice of Fair Trade

Plan ahead for the goblins, cheerleaders and Spidermen who come to the front door trailing leaves and opening bags in front of you to receive candy.  This year, you might choose to pass out  little brown bars of Fair Trade chocolate to the munchkins who show up on your front stoop on Oct. 31.

Why bother? I am glad you asked. Purchasing Fair Trade chocolate supports worker cooperatives committed to fair labor practices and environmental sustainability. By handing out Fair Trade chocolate, you are giving kids the opportunity to learn about how they can help kids their age across the globe who work long hours in tough conditions harvesting cocoa. Some children — as young as eight years old — are smuggled away from their African homes, to work in the fields. The frightening chocolate industry can be learned about in the documentary, “The Dark Side of Chocolate.”

Most of us want to make a difference and not turn away from good causes and people in need. This is one simple way. The Fair Trade program  has become so popular that Halloween Actions Kits through Global Exchange are already sold out this year. However, you can order chocolate through Equal Exchange, where you can also learn about the fascinating process of turning cacao into a chocolate bar.  The beans are grown and then harvested. Then, worker remove the cacao by cracking the pod with a machete or a club. The beans are then fermented about six days, then dried in the sun for about a week with continuous raking to prevent mold or brittleness, and then roasted and winnowed. From there, the beans are ground into a paste and then conched, which is a method of mixing and aerating the beans. Then they are tempered (warmed, cooled) and shipped.

Now that is what I call making science fun. This is a lesson worth learning all in itself.

To interest students in the fascinating process of chocolate making,  and in the rights of young children who work in this industry,  you can use Fair Trade curriculum in your classroom, youth group, club  or after-school program. Teachers or group leaders can download curriculum here, which is geared for grades 4-9, and can be used as separate units or as a four-unit package. Fundraising programs for groups are also available at http://equalexchange.coop/programs/fundraising. You can learn more about many Fair Trade programs at the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition.

So consider  going online or picking up the phone to order good chocolate for a good cause on Halloween, a night when you can try on different clothes and make a difference. Then hang up the ghost in the window and the spiderweb on the front porch. Put on some high-pitched scary music, and wait for the doorbell to start ringing.

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