NEW YORK—The folks at Hastings-on-Hudson in Westchester County got a different kind of shock when they opened their doors to 11-year-old Colson Armacost and his friends during Halloween. The kids were giving out treats, instead of asking for them.
Colson and his friends handed out fair trade chocolates with information about child slave labor, trafficking, poverty, and hazardous environmental conditions in the cocoa industry. Colson said he understands the issues in the cocoa industry, and is happy to be able to tell adults and other children about it through the Global Exchange Reverse Trick-or-Treating initiative.
He said he has received a great response from people that he talked to and many people expressed interest in participating next year.
“It’s fun,” said Colson. “I say, ‘Nobody was hurt in the process of making the chocolate,’ … Most people said they’ll look into it.”
Children around the country have been participating in reverse Trick-or-Treating since it was started five years ago.
Colson and his mother, Niki Armacost, a board member of Global Exchange, were able to give chocolate to 30 households in the area this year.
“I love it, I think it’s very powerful to be able to get this message out there,” Armacost said. “It’s a really effective, charming way to educate people about a challenging topic. It’s deliciously subversive that way.”
She added that the people who receive the chocolates are always in shock and cannot believe that they have been given something in return. She says that the giveback process has been quite successful in bringing attention to labor issues. But, cocoa sold with the fair trade label still captures a very low share of the cocoa market (0.1 percent), according to the International Cocoa Organization.
“We watch [the people who received the chocolates] through the windows … and you could see them looking at the documents, you could see they were actually reading it, and you can see them chitchatting with the other people in the room,” she said. “It seems to be having an impact.”
Unfortunately, the chocolates the children received from the different households were not fair trade, but she hopes to see more fair trade chocolates handed back to the children in the future.“I wish I saw more evidence of fair trade chocolates coming back to the kids,” she said. “Occasionally they’ll get an apple or something healthy, but we don’t see too much fair trade chocolate coming back our way.”
Global Exchange is an international human rights organization that promotes social, economic, and environmental justice. It was established in 1988 and has supported fair trade practices through various campaigns and a fair trade blog.