In honor of Food Day and Hawaii’s fruit

Hello lovers of good food,

I almost forgot, in the midst of a cold and mountains of work, that today is Food Day. While last week was World Food Day, today is America’s Food Day, a time to tell Congress to support sustainable, locally grown food, improve access to healthy, affordable food, cut subsidies for factory farms, and more good stuff.

There are a couple of things you can still do:

1. Tell your representative to support the Eat Real Agenda. You can view the letter here or send your own message.

2. Check out the 6 Food Day Principles to get a sense of the major issues that the Agenda seeks to address.

3. Exercise your right to buy organic, shade-grown chocolate, made of high quality beans and real health benefits and remember…the higher the bean quality, the more money the farmer receives. My recommendation for this week is a chocolate bar that is indeed grown, from pod to bar in this very country! Hawaii is the only part of the U.S. that has the right climate (areas 20 degrees north and south of the equator) to grow cacao. This weekend, I was able to check out the NW Chocolate Festival and taste this delectable little bar from Madre company: – a 70% with real passion fruit. A little on the sweet side but I love passion fruit and the flavor really comes out.

I talked to one of the makers and am glad to report they promote organic, sustainably grown cacao of the highest quality, in addition to working directly with the farmers. You can order through their site and hopefully, as they grow,and with your support, this chocolate will be soon be sold widely across the country.

Stay tuned for the story of chocolate and my series on sustainable chocolate companies. I will divulge what I learned from the Chocolate Fest this week too, including the controversies surrounding Fair Trade certification.

Blog Action Day & World Food Day – The importance of Fair Trade Chocolate #BAD11

Today is a special day! Blog Action Day has chosen the topic of FOOD to commemorate World Food Day.

It’s only fitting that I talk about my favorite food on this day – chocolate – what was once known as Food of the Gods, and what today is still considered so by me, but not by everyone. As bustling as the chocolate business is, with millions of customers anxiously tearing open their wrappers to devour that amazing brown stuff that just makes them feel sooo good, there is comparably as much disconnect between the fact that the growers who make it possible for us to access the brown stuff in edible form are not feeling so good.

What am I talking about? Unfair trade. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be eating chocolate associated with exploited labor,  unfair wages, or environmental degradation. With the chocolate industry raking in over $13 billion last year you’d think the farmers harvesting this sacred bean would be adequately compensated. Sadly, this is not the case. With over 70% of the world’s chocolate production originating from beans grown in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, there is simply not enough transparency or standards monitoring the growing process. Large companies are paying for cheap labor, producing cheap, low-quality chocolate, and making huge profits. One way in which to guarantee accountability and know the relative impact of your chocolate is through consuming Fair Trade chocolate.

Fair trade certification basically ensures farmers and laborers are paid a fair wage for what they produce. Because of this direct link between the farmer owned cooperatives and the buyers, producers can avoid cost-cutting practices that sacrifice quality and are destructive to the environment. For example, Fair Trade chocolate is typically organic and shade-grown, meaning it is grown under the canopy of the rainforest rather than in a clear cut field. Under Fair Trade certification, slave labor is prohibited, and environmental and social standards are mandated through audits and the establishment of cooperatives. The WCF says there about 5-6 million cocoa farmers. But the number of people who depend upon cocoa for their livelihoods is 40-50 million people! So, by purchasing fair trade chocolate, you can make a difference by aiding farmers to earn enough to support their families and send their children to school.

TransFair USA certifies U.S. products, and FairTrade International certifies products elsewhere. I want to note that the certification process is costly, and it’s not perfect, but it’s a start in the right direction. I will explore it more in future posts, but for now, if you’re thinking about what bar to get – here are a few Fair Trade and organic options that are available widely:

Divine – benefits cacao growers in Ghana.

Theo – the first U.S. based bean-to-bar producer of organic, fair trade chocolate.

Equal Exchange – I’m a purist, but their caramel crunch bar is pretty delicious.

Alter Eco – with the help of an independent Swiss chocolatier, these bars don’t sacrifice quality. The company sells other non-chocolate products too, pretty cool.

What is your relationship to chocolate? How does it make you feel? What is your favorite bar? For those of you who do not like chocolate, whether it’s because you don’t have a sweet tooth, or you just haven’t been introduced to the right one…I can help. I urge you to keep reading in the hopes that you will, at some point, be compelled to try the good brown stuff.

If I can’t make a chocolate lover out of you, I want to appeal to your passion for the environment, conservation, poverty alleviation, green living,  sustainable agriculture and travel. All those things have connections to the royal cacao tree.

And, if that weren’t enough…climate change is now affecting cacao production. More on that in a future post. Stay tuned for a series on the most sustainable chocolate companies out there. I will be showcasing my favorite bar from each company;)

Chocolate and sustainability….it’s everywhere!

As I delve into the origins of cacao, you will learn just how entrenched certain cultures are in cultivating these plants. You’ll also learn why if you care about the environment, your health, and fair trade, you should care about sustainable chocolate.

I will share the linkages to conservation impacts of cocoa farming in a future post, but for now, to tweak your interest, check out this partnership between a well known conservation NGO and the cocoa industry.

Interested in economics and agriculture? You might be surprised to know cocoa is big enough to have been discussed at a World Economic Forum meeting.

As for you business people out there, you already know how big the chocolate business is. You might be interested to know how the largest companies have come under increasing scrutiny over their industry’s practices, which is why they are now competing for the ever coveted “sustainable chocolate makers” title. Case in point, Kraft, and Mars.

And finally, for the foodies who love chocolate, let it be made clear: all chocolate is not made equal. If you’re curious just how legit your “chocolate/candy” bar is, know this – There is a VAST difference between chocolate- the candy bar and chocolate- the real thing.

More to come on all of the above! Do you have any burning questions you would like answered on this blog? What do you perceive to be the biggest issues in the chocolate industry today?

Welcome to Cacao for a Cause

Hello readers! I’m currently a student at Bainbridge Graduate Institute, studying sustainable business, and I am taking a fascinating class: Social Media for Social Change. The intention in this class is for us to become comfortable with our public persona, out here in the social web, and one avenue is through blogging. I am no stranger to blogging, however my past blogs (yes, I’ve had more than a couple) have not stuck. They were born on a whim and abandoned because their purpose and path was not apparent.

This blog is different, and it’s here to stay. And it’s about cacao, sustainability, and conscious consumption.

Ever wonder where that divine chocolate bar you’re eating was made? Or what the implications of munching on that Hershey’s Kiss are? Or are you simply interested to learn about the coolest new sustainable chocolate bar on the market? Whatever your relationship with my favorite food in the world, come explore this special bean’s history, health benefits, and fair food revolution. More importantly, join me in the journey to see just how big a deal cacao is in business, who it benefits, who it doesn’t, and what conscious groups are doing to make this business more equitable so you and I can enjoy our chocolate without any guilt.

With this blog, I intend to find continuity and rhythm through the promotion of sustainable indulgence. I will share my passion for chocolate, my belief that business can create positive change, and explore all the ways that the chocolate industry, a big business, can improve its practices. Cacao for a cause is one of my passions, ever since I learned about how it impacts millions of farmers across the world. There is immense potential to make chocolate lovers around the world connect with the product and join the movement for fair trade, ethical chocolate. My hope is that I can inspire love and responsibility on the consumer end for a food that is truly a gift to us. You’ll learn why it’s important to stand up to big chocolate-making companies to demand more transparency. You’ll learn how the cacao bean has evolved. You’ll learn about its many benefits. And you’ll learn how you can make a difference.