Dear Grocery Store

I just wanted to get some Fair Trade chocolate to hand out for Halloween. I took my two young kids with me and we visited a few stores. We came up short. Way short. We found Fair Trade chocolate at an organic specialty store, but it is was in large bars for $4.50 each, nothing smaller. We found lots of small chocolate bars at the grocery store, but nothing fair trade.

Frustrated, I gave up on chocolate, and started looking for candy instead. Gummies, lollipops, licorice…

My 5 year-old son looked up at me and asked me why. “Why can’t we buy chocolate this year mama?”

I looked down at his innocent face. My heart broke. In the middle of the candy aisle in a busy grocery store on the day before Halloween, I bent down to my knees so I could look into his eyes.

Me:  I am going to tell you something right now that you are probably too young to understand. Where we live in Canada, they don’t hurt little kids, but in other countries they make little kids work on cocoa farms, and some kids are taken from their mommies and daddies and don’t ever get to play with toys or go to school. It is not fair. It is not very nice. I do not want to buy chocolate from people who are not nice to little kids and hurt them.

My boy:  But why don’t they go to school?

Me:  Because bad people steal them and take them away from their mommies and daddies and make them work to make chocolate.

My boy:  Why do those bad people do that?

Me:  Because they are very poor and have no money so they make the kids work for free.

I was not sure if he understood. How could he? He was five years old. I don’t even understand it. We bought the sugar candy and started to head home.

My boy:  So we can never buy chocolate again?

Me:  We can buy chocolate if it is labeled fair trade. If it has the fair trade logo on it, that means that little children were not hurt to make the chocolate. So we will buy that instead.

He thought about it some more.

My boy:  But what about the normal chocolate?  What can we do about it Mommy? What can we do?

My heart broke again. Here is my little boy, so innocent, already thinking of solutions, and already thinking that there was something he could do to make a difference.

Me:  Well we could write a letter to the grocery stores and tell them that we think they should sell chocolate that isn’t made by little kids.

My boy: Yes! Let’s do that.

Me: Let’s do it together. Maybe those people at the grocery store will listen to a letter written by a little kid, more than to one written by an adult. Maybe they will understand how important it is to stand up for little kids.

My boy: But I don’t know how to write.

Me: You say the words, and I will write them down.

So we did:

Dear Grocery Store,

I am age 5. I want you to stop getting the normal chocolate. Please get more Fair Trade chocolate. I don’t want you to use the normal chocolate because they use kids to make it in Africa. Some of these kids are stolen to pick the cocoa out of the cocoa trees to make chocolate. These kids are slaves.

Please, pretty please, stop getting normal chocolate.

Thank you.

Then we emailed it to these places:

Since then we have gone to a convenience store and looked at chocolate bars together until we found one with the Fair Trade logo. He picked them up, one by one. “Mommy, no logo! This one doesn’t have a logo either! I can’t find any with a logo!” I am sure the lady at the counter thought we were nuts.

Finally he found one. It was a Cadbury, a Dairy Milk, the only Fair Trade option among dozens.

We bought it.

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10 thoughts on “Dear Grocery Store

  1. What a wonderful teachable moment, Sherry, and you didn’t allow it to pass by! And I love it that you then connected it to action – kids are very concrete thinkers, so that’s important.
    And boy, I’m surprised that Cadbury has a fair trade bar – I wouldn’t have guessed that. Shopper’s Drugmart also has a few fair trade options.

    • They are concrete thinkers, aren’t they? We could learn a lot by just listening to them.

      I was surprised and happy to see that Cadbury had a bar too. Now we just need to get them to increase the FT chocolate in ALL their bars!

      Vote with our dollars!

  2. Earth’s General Store had 100 count bags of small chocolate bars on sale for Halloween. These are made by Cocoa Camino. We also carry another five 32gm bars from Cocoa Camino that are Certified Organic and Fair Trade.
    A short time ago I wrote a response to your blog about chocolate and Cadbury’s. Just in case it didn’t get posted I mentioned that Cadbury’s is now owned by Kraft. I appreciate that after a couple of hundreds of years of exploiting the workers on cocao plantations Cadbury’s finally started to use FT cocao in their chocolate manufacturing. Unfortunately they are now owned by Kraft (which is affiliated with Marlboro cigarettes).
    It is great that you and your son are asking for FT chocolate bars at a wider variety of places. Someday it will be in every store and that all chocolate (and every other product in the world will be made with respect of the workers/producers and the planet).
    Thanks for doing this work.

    • Next year we will DEFINITELY be getting our Halloween candy from Earth’s General Store! I should have checked there first! I have purchased Cocoa Camino in the past as well (I have 3 bars in my cupboard right now!) and it is fantastic. You are right, it is important to highlight these vendors, as they are really the ones leading the way. I know that Cadbury is not the best, as compared to these, but unfortuneatly Cocoa Camino and other great brands are not widely available – so I just wanted to show what you can find Fair Trade at your neighbourhood store with some digging. I am hoping for a day when all chocolate will be fair trade, and perhaps a letter from a little boy might help with that effort.

      Thank YOU for giving people the choice of a variety of Fair Trade Organic at your store! :)

  3. Your son is also too young to realize how lucky he is to have a mom like you. You can bet he will pass on these same values to his kids in the future. We need today’s kids to grow up knowing the horrible truth about cheap food so that more of them can act to fight it. Don’t forget: there are problems at home, too. Many farm workers are treated unfairly and unethically right here in Canada. But sadly there’s no label to look for to feel peace of mind when buying fruits and veggies.

    • It interesting, going along this journey with my two kids tagging along. Some stuff I talk to them about, other stuff I don’t. They are getting the picture. The other day my son asked me if we were burning fossil fuels to drive to swimming lessons. I answered yes. Then asked me “Why are you so environmental?” I had to laugh. I explained to him that it was for him, for his generation. It was for the children, so they can inherit an Earth without big problems. Then he asked me what “generation” meant. :)

      Food production has some of the worse abuses, it is true. It is hard to even think about. I suppose the best defence is to buy from local farmers you can have a conversation with, ones that are transparent about their operations, ones you can trust. That generally means eliminating a lot of foods from your diet year round. Oranges and bananas. Strawberries in winter. Canned fruit. But there are other options that can make it all worthwhile…

    • I knew they were poor, but did not realize that this went on until I watched the documentary “Chocolate: The Bitter Truth”. So sad. I think if people just knew, they would act and only buy Fair Trade. So we need to spread the word!

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