NEWCOMB - Ninth grade students in Newcomb, donned in their long-awaited Halloween costumes, hit the streets for much more than candy Oct. 31. Instead of just receiving, they joined students from across the capital region in handing out chocolate treats in hopes of raising awareness of the benefits of fair trade chocolate.
Named "Reverse Trick or Treating," the campaign was developed as part of the Fair Trade Project of the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State. In exchange for Halloween candy, each student handed out a piece of fair trade chocolate (Equal Exchange, Sweet Earth and Coco-Zen) with information regarding the child labor, forced labor, and trafficking that is often widespread on contemporary cocoa farms.
"The project serves as a protest to the horrifying fact that much of the chocolate given out on Halloween comes from cocoa grown and harvested with abusive child labor and sometimes slavery," said Martha Schultz of the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State.
In Newcomb, the effort was introduced by NCS staff members Denise Bolan and Martha Swan, who have attended conferences on the topic of fair trade goods.
"Fair trade chocolate could put an end to the child slavery and trafficking that is present in the cocoa industry," Bolan said.
Bolan and Swan introduced their students to the issues through a documentary called "The Dark Side of Chocolate," which offers evidence that child labor, trafficking, and slavery are rampant in the cocoa industry.
"They were moved by it," said Bolan. "And then a group of them wanted to get more involved and decided to take part in the Reverse Trick or Treating activity."
Nearly a decade ago, a series of media efforts revealed child and forced labor and trafficking on cocoa farms in West Africa, which is the source of 70 percent of the world's cocoa, led to publict