Hershey’s, part 2: The Great American Chocolate Bar?

[Part 1 of the Hershey’s post is here.]

A friend of mine has an “about me” section on her blog, and hidden down inside this lovely paragraph is this confession: “I buy organic eggs and yogurt but nothing else, and that makes me a hypocrite.”  I resonate with this. (As I’ve been quick to confess recently, I am often a hypocrite.)

Over the six years J and I have been married, we’ve begun making decisions, sometimes difficult decisions for us, about consumption. Well, we’ve been making lots of decisions, of course, but the ones I’m focusing on right now are primarily about consumption.

Like lots of people these days, we try to eat locally as much as possible, we try to find out where our food is coming from, and we’ve mostly stopped purchasing non-fair-trade items like chocolate (which means, in the case of chocolate chips, since we are also cheapskates, that we just don’t eat chocolate chip cookies anymore) and coffee. Cocoa and coffee are two industries notorious for slave labor, especially child slave labor. (It doesn’t take much Googling to find out reputable information, including from international watchdog organizations that back this up, and even a few documentaries have now been made on the topic, so you can trust me that it’s not a “conspiracy.”)

So, okay, I buy locally roasted, fair trade coffee beans. Yum. And when we buy chocolate to sneak into movie theaters, it’s fair trade. But when I see a Mr. Goodbar, I still get warm fuzzies. When I put on my Hershey’s sweatshirt, I’m  happy. When I sing my “Hershey’s chocolate, Hershey’s chocolate, Hershey Chocolate World… wherever you go, no matter how far… you’re always near… a Hershey bar! Hershey Chocolate, real milk chocolate: Hershey’s! The great American Chocolate bar!”–well, I like that it brings a smile to people’s faces.

In my mind, “big bad chocolate corporations getting their chocolate from child slave labor” and “Hershey’s chocolate” are completely separate. Completely. I like it that way. I mean, obviously I kind of knew that  Hershey’s was complicit, no “fair trade” label, it’s too affordable, no claims made about ethical anything on their candy bars or on their web site…but still. It’s my Hershey’s.

Recently, J has gotten involved with a group of folks on campus who are bringing the “Not for Sale” campaign to campus. “Not for Sale” is a campaign that promotes awareness about the global slave trade and advocates using our power as consumers to work for social change. That’s what prompted the “blood chocolate” comment at the end of my last post.

Now, I realize that our not buying a Hershey’s chocolate bar doesn’t make much difference in the scheme of things. But that’s not really the point here. The point is this: once you know something, you can’t not know it.

There’s a Sara Groves song called “I Saw What I Saw,” which I think I read somewhere is about a missions trip she took where she came face to face with poverty. The song opens like this:

I saw what I saw and I can’t forget it. I heard what I heard and I can’t go back. I know what I know and I can’t deny it–something on the road, cut me to the soul. Your pain has changed me. . .

Every time I listen to this song, I think about all of the issues that are so huge and impossible and overwhelming to me, issues I think are absolutely important to solve, issues that are at the core of what it means to be a confessing Christian, but issues that seem impossible. It’s things like homelessness, world hunger, inner city poverty, child slavery, the sex trade industry, war, violence, heck, universal healthcare… the list goes on and on. But this song reminds me that there are people, real people, people with faces involved in this pain and suffering.

It is in those faces–and the knowledge of those faces–that I see Jesus.

Even in a candy bar wrapper. Really.

I can’t just decide not to see Jesus there.

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5 comments on “Hershey’s, part 2: The Great American Chocolate Bar?

  1. Rebecca says:

    Awesome post, Liz. I resonate with so much of what you write – the hardest part for me is how to figure out how to share what I’m learning about social justice without hitting people over the head with it. Oh, and thanks for the reminder that I need to update my About Me section…I buy organic carrots now, too 🙂

  2. I had no idea that was true about chocolate.

    • elizabeth says:

      It’s only been in the last ten years or so that the information about the industry has been available to the public. But the information itself is difficult to decipher–and purchasing decisions aren’t easy, to say the least.

      Yep, it’s a tricky line to walk, knowing how much to say or not say, how much to do or not do, what to buy or not buy… *sigh* I also get some pushback from friends who seem to think I’m judging their decisions if they don’t agree with mine. I don’t judge them, honest. We all have to make our own decisions. And nobody is entirely consistent, least of all me. I still wear my Hershey’s sweatshirt. I ate Raisinets last night which were certainly covered in blood chocolate, and it didn’t even cross my mind until just now.

  3. Stephen says:

    Interesting. I have heard of “blood diamonds” but never “blood chocolate.” I read a little bit on the web about the idea. Very thought provoking. The press release from the International Cocoa group made an interesting point that they use many small family farms and are not able to control the labor used on family farms. Back when the Milton Hershey School first started the students lived on the dairy farms that produced the milk for the milk chocolate. That is until the child labor laws were enacted.

    Being aware of where your goods and merchandise come from is important, but to some extent a impossible venture to truly know where everything comes from, how it is produced, and who produced it. All yet another reason to buy locally as much as possible.

    Also rather humorous are the automatic ads placed on your blog… they are about chocolate. 🙂

    • elizabeth says:

      Yep. It is impossible to know where a lot of our stuff comes from–so impossible that it at times seems overwhelming. And not just with food! Our clothing & shoes, our technological gadgets, gosh, everything: it’s craziness. But I still think we should try to know. I wonder if perhaps we will be held accountable for what we know… and for what we didn’t bother to try to find out. What do you think?

      PS J & A chopped up some of those Hershey bars and made chocolate chip cookies.

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