Labor Day in our Chocolate
Every day is Jewish Labor Day. Jewish tradition expounds the importance of work and those who do it. Even God worked for six days and only then rested on Shabbat.
Chocolate is one medium for uncovering themes of worker equity, food justice and ethical kashrut. Many cocoa farmers, those who tend the cocoa trees and harvest the beans, never taste the final product of chocolate.
Worse, thousands of children, some of them slaves, work cocoa production in West Africa’s Ivory Coast or Ghana, the primary market for much of the world’s cocoa beans. This past July the US Department of Labor released a study that estimated that 2 million children work in hazardous conditions in West African cocoa. It has designated $12 million dollars for programs to reduce these numbers. This builds on the Declaration of Joint Action among the ministers of labor of Ivory Coast and Ghana and the United States from 2010. Unfortunately in this regard, chocolate does not always mix well with Judaism’s value of oshek, honest and fair labor practices.
The Harkin-Engel Protocol, known as the Cocoa Protocol, an international agreement, sought to eliminate the worst forms of child labor in the chocolate industry. While at least eight multinational chocolate producers have signed onto the Protocol including Guittard, Nestle, Hershey, M&M/Mars, and Callebaut, it has not yet been fully implemented.
In an effort to provide fair compensation to cocoa farmers, several chocolate companies use fair trade certification systems to establish a minimum price above market value for cocoa. Other chocolate makers prefer to sidestep that certification, claiming that their farmers benefit more from their direct contact and superior financial arrangements. Fair Trade Judaica’s Ilana Schatz offers Fair Trade merchandise and chocolate options. She also promotes guilt free Chanukah gelt produced by Divine Chocolate and Kosher for Passover Fair Trade chocolate from Equal Exchange.
This Labor Day may we choose foods, including chocolate, that honor these everyday Jewish values, enhance our precious resources, sustain our work, and enhance our rest.
An earlier version of this post appeared at ReformJudaism.org
Book Optioned: Museum Exhibit
Excerpted from my remarks at Opening Night at Temple Emanu-El, NYC, October 20, 2017: Some people have books optioned for movies. I am so delighted that my book, On the Chocolate Trail (2nd Edition, 2017) has become a museum exhibit… Thank you, Warren Klein, for your professionalism, creativity and collegiality in creating Semite Sweet, which displays someRead more ›
Announcing Second Edition: On the Chocolate Trail
Media attention, popular culture, audience questions, growing consumer awareness, and changes in the chocolate world sparked the new material in this second edition of On the Chocolate Trail. I am happy to offer up a totally new chapter, “Gods in My Chocolate,” which explores twenty-first-century controversies about deities formed from chocolate. While chocolate generallyRead more ›
No End to Chocolate Exhibits Part III: Visits #3, 4 & 5
A stunning number of exhibits about chocolate, mostly on the East Coast, captured our attention in the last six months. Mark and I had the opportunity to visit three very different exhibits, what I call #3, 4 & 5. I reviewed the exhibit (#1) at Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), where I was honored toRead more ›
Of Chocolate Exhibits There is No End: Part 2
Just as the Detroit Institute of Arts closes its wonderful Bitter|Sweet display of chocolate, coffee and tea, no need to despair. New York offers three additional exhibits. Setting aside the wondrous and elegant chocolate shops, at least three local museums currently exhibit artifacts related to the history and consumption of chocolate. For now, the newRead more ›
Some Previous Posts
(in alphabetical order)
- Adventures On the Chocolate Trail: Atlanta, Portland, Seattle
- Anschluss Launches Bartons Passover Favorites 77 Years Ago
- Bat Mitzvah Wants Fair Trade Israeli Chocolate
- Bringing Buckeye Candy to Experts
- Chocolate Expo
- Chocolate Made My Lunch: Nashville
- Chocolate, Coffee, Tea and Me
- Election 2016: Winning Fudge Brigadeiros
- Fathering Chocolate
- Hunting for Chocolate: Fancy Food Show, NYC, 2016
- Labor Day in our Chocolate
- Local Chocolate in the South
- Minding Our Chocolate
- No End to Chocolate Exhibits Part III: Visits #3, 4 & 5
- Of Chocolate Exhibits There is No End: Part 2
- On the Chocolate Trail in Brooklyn
- Seriously Tasting Chocolate
- Super Food Chocolate for Super Bowl Sunday: Three Recipes
- Ten Teaspoons of Sugar in My Chocolate?
- That Time Jews Smuggled Chocolate to France — and a Recipe for Basque Chocolate Cake