Chocolate can be a lot of things for people: a delicious treat, a healthful supplement, an artful component in baking and candy-making, even an icon of affection, as I suspect many will see this February. It is probably not often considered a vehicle for enacting social and environmental change, but in truth, all food is to some extent. Chocolate supply is especially complicit in social inequity, often being grown or processed by workers receiving depressed wages or no wages at all.
Since May, when I wrote about it in a Reader article, we have been using Equal Exchange Chocolate Chips in our house-produced baked goods and selling the chips for a reduced price in our Bulk aisles as a result of a bulk purchasing arrangement we had brokered with Equal Exchange. If you’d like more information about this arrangement with Equal Exchange, head online and check out that article at www.willystreet.coop/reader/may-2016/eat-chocolate-do-good. These chocolate chips are really amazing: allergen-free, organic, and fair trade. Sometime this month, look for Equal Exchange signs and product labels (see below) in and around the Bakery section calling out the virtues and uses of these chocolate chips. Since we began buying them in May of 2016, we’ve pulled in a total of 9,438 pounds of semisweet and bittersweet chocolate chips.
The ultimate beneficiary of these chocolate chip sales is ACOPAGRO, the cacao growers’ co-op from whence these chips originate. ACOPAGRO is a 1,900-member-strong farmer cooperative that focuses on sustainable farming practices and ensures that farmers are also landowners so that they may see more of the profits from the sale of their crops. According to Equal Exchange, the profits that the farmers see from this amount of chocolate sales is roughly enough to support four, almost five ACOPAGRO farming families. I am just struck by this. It’s really what makes this worth it for me—knowing that we are supporting people and practices in food systems here at home and abroad that are additive to our economy and ecosystems and that these families can choose to continue being self-employed and self-governed because of the cooperative model and Fair Trade pricing. That’s worth it, in my mind, to spend some of my time and dime today buying Equal Exchange chocolate chips and Willy Street Co-op cookies, cakes and bars in support of these folks. Please consider choosing from among the wide variety of products that this encompasses as you look to fulfill on your chocolate wants (or needs) this February.