Halloween is here again and I’ve always had mixed feelings about it. Growing up, we didn’t do Halloween, though I was allowed to go to “harvest parties” at churches. Honestly, I thought both were stupid. Come Halloween night, I would hide in our basement watching movies so that I wouldn’t have to answer the door. As an adult, I can see the fun in it, especially for little kids, buuut I still don’t like answering the door. I know, I’m like the Scrooge of Halloween. A few years ago I became aware of an issue that made me really choose how and if I would spend my money on Halloween.
Did you know that the average U.S. citizen eats over 11lbs of chocolate a year? That equals about 120 chocolate bars (1). I guess spread over a year, that may not sound too bad, but to me, that sounds kind of gross. I mean, I’m not a huge chocolate fan anyway and it makes me breakout. Anyway, back to the issue. “Americans spend over a billion dollars every Halloween on chocolate, accounting for 10% of most chocolate company’s annual revenue” (2). Over a billion dollars?!? That is so crazy and I haven’t even gotten to the real issue! The real issue is that major chocolate companies such as Mars, Nestle, and Hershey, get their cocoa from suppliers who use child labor/slavery (see sources at end of post). There are multiples sources ranging from news articles, documentaries, and even lawsuits that attest to this. The lawsuits are somewhat recent and the results are far from desirable.
The media coverage of child labor attracted the attention of U.S. politicians, who pressured the industry to tackle the issue. Former Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat of Iowa, and Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, pushed the big chocolate makers to agree to eradicating the worst forms of child labor, as defined by the International Labor Organization’s Convention No. 182, by July 1, 2005. The deadline for meeting the goals of the Harkin-Engel Protocol was then pushed back to 2008, then 2010—and then it was really extended. The industry is now working on its pledge in 2010 to reduce child labor in Ivory Coast and Ghana by 70% by 2020. (3)
I suppose one could argue that they can’t help it since it is not the companies themselves that are using child labor but that’s stretching it. Their suppliers do and by purchasing from them, they are then supporting child labor. Besides that, they can decide who their suppliers are; there are other companies who have been able to get their cocoa from free people. I honestly don’t mean to be a Scrooge about this but I also know that not many people know about this and once I found out, it really changed how and where I spent my money. The only reason I’m not doing a blog post with all the details is because I want y’all to check it out for yourselves and I don’t want to come across as judgmental or like you’re crazy if you choose to buy those products anyway. Below I’ve listed several links as info sources (ranging from 2010-2016, asterisks are next to ones that might be the most helpful) but one that you should check out is slavefreechocolate.org. They have a list of companies to avoid and companies who have declared they sell only fair trade, slave-free products. But, keep in mind that there are other options besides chocolate anyway. This brings me to the next thing to be aware of this Halloween.
There is a project called The Teal Pumpkin Project. I only recently became aware of this from a friend of ours. People put out teal pumpkins to show they have NON-food treats such as small toys. This project helps in raising awareness for those who have life-threatening allergies but also allows kids with allergies to enjoy trick-or-treating just as much as any other kid. Not to mention it allows the parents to enjoy it too since they don’t have to worry about what they may encounter, denying their kid something more often than not, worrying about the possibility of having to use an EpiPen, or having to rush to a hospital. I asked my friend if she wouldn’t mind giving her thoughts about it and this is what she had to say:
For us, Halloween is a really big deal because it’s our twins’ birthday. Ironically, they are allergic to so many foods that the only candy they have ever had is a special brand of chocolate and the homemade lollipops I make for them. So what does one do when one is born on the biggest candy day of the year but can’t eat candy? We are thankful that for many years we attended a local church’s Fall Festival where there were hay rides and games that didn’t all involve candy. Then a year came when they decided not to have it, but we didn’t find out until it was too late to come up with an alternate plan, so we stayed home and had a movie night. The kids were terrific about it, and we had a great time! But I admit I grieved for my boys. Now that church does a Trunk or Treat where they line up decorated cars and trucks around a parking lot and the kids collect candy as they go from trunk to trunk. My heart sank when I learned about this change last year. I asked my other food-allergic families how they handle trick or treating and learned that we are not alone in the struggle. I heard ideas like exchanging candy for coins or a small gift, or even skipping all events and having a movie night at home like we’d done the year before. We’ve tried it all! But I will never forget last year when we went to the Trunk or Treat event with the promise to give money for candy. My heart soared when I saw my friend’s teal pumpkins. My guys chose their little toys and they immediately asked, “Mom? Do we get to KEEP these?” YES! Finally a place where they could keep their prizes! My Mama heart was and is so deeply touched when I see these teal pumpkins because they demonstrate the love and compassion that people still have for others. They send a message to me that they get it, that food allergies are real, and that they don’t want them to stop kids like mine from participating in the same fun everyone else has. It doesn’t seem like much, but to this family it means a happy birthday. – Gillian
So, just some thoughts about Halloween this year and I hope that it was food for thought and not a party pooper post for ya!