An Easter basket goody. A dessert staple. A cultural medium. With a worldwide consumption rate of approximately 7.7 million tons annually, it’s obvious that chocolate is something a lot of people can’t seem to live without. Many people view chocolate as something that is an indulgent treat, reserved only for cheat days and special occasions. Still others prefer to eat it daily.

Any way you look at it, chocolate is an integral part of food culture around the world in various different forms. In pop culture, chocolate shows up in films such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and often elicits a certain emotional response.

In fact, when thinking about chocolate, we often get so wrapped up in the product: the taste, the feeling, the golden ticket, that we choose to forget about the Oompa Loompas working behind the scenes. It’s easier to enjoy the savory snack with clear consciences, but that means that companies and our taste buds are profiting off hard working cacao farmers living in poverty.

It’s time we change this. While everyone should be free to enjoy the delights of chocolate, it shouldn’t be at the deprivation of millions of people.

Over 70% of the world’s cocoa comes from the countries of the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria and due to a decrease in price, most of the farmers in these places are stuck with an average daily wage of 91 cents. Yet the chocolate industries brought in a grand total of over 98 billion dollars in 2016 by sales alone. So where is the money going?

It’s certainly not going towards fair wages for the 2 million child laborers in the industry. According to Make Chocolate Fair, almost 25% of children in these cacao farming countries work to help support their family at the expense of their own health. Many children are even stolen, trafficked and bought from surrounding nations in poverty and brought to the Ivory Coast.

No child should be forced to work in such drastic, horrible conditions, especially without pay. All children deserve hope for their lives and careers as much as you deserve that Nestle candy bar.

So what can you, a single person, do to change the fate of a couple million children and their families?

Stop being complacent. When you have the attitude that you can’t do anything just because you are only one human being, nothing can ever get better. This is the result of the Bystander Effect; a psychological phenomenon that says when there are loads of witnesses to something terrible, people are less likely to help the victim(s), because they assume someone else will help.

Don’t assume. Be a leader. Act out first and convince people to follow suit. If you’re wondering, “why is no one talking about this?”, it’s because you’re not talking about it. Well, neither are vegan animal rights activists.

Educate yourself and others about the cocoa farming process. Read up on all that goes into chocolate production from the bean to the candy bar and how companies like Fairtrade America can improve the sustainability of the industry and life for all those involved.

You don’t have to give up those chocolate splurges. Enjoy guilt free goody binges with some of these recommended chocolate candy brands:

  1. 100% Fairtrade certified
  2. Navitas
  3. Tony’s Chocolonely
  4. Fran’s
  5. Divine
  6. Promoting endangered species: chocolate bars

Photo: Pablo Merchán Montes via Unsplash

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