By Sarah Gioe
Imagine if, on Halloween, a little costumed character outside your front door thanked you for the candy and then said, "Now I have a treat for you!" and handed you some chocolate in return. Surprising, right? Children from the Sunday School classes at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in New Rochelle have been doing just that—and educating their community about the importance of fair trade—for the past five years.
The congregation had been using fair trade coffee for a while. It wasn’t until member Cathy O’Rourke read the book Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet by Carol Off that they decided to take their commitment to fair trade to the next level. Leaders realized that Equal Exchange, the supplier of their fair trade coffee and tea, also sold fair trade chocolate and encouraged "reverse trick-or-treating" at Halloween.
Reverse trick-or-treating works like this: individuals or groups can order fair trade mini chocolate bars that come with informational postcards about where most mainstream chocolate comes from (cacao plantations in West Africa, where forced child labor has been documented). The mini-chocolates are sourced fairly and directly from small-scale farmer co-ops; it costs approximately $60 for 300 cards and pieces of candy. Children are given the candy and cards to distribute to neighbors while they are trick-or-treating. They still get to collect their own Halloween candy, but now they are also able to give back for a good cause.
"The children are very excited to give a treat when they ask for one. People that answer the door are extremely responsive. It makes the children feel they are doing something good," says Sunday School director Dawn McEvoy, who happily got the students involved. "Sometimes they would be disappointed that they couldn’t have more cards to give out. Even our high school students are involved and give out cards."
Reverse trick-or-treating "has definitely helped to make the fair trade issue concrete" for the kids, says O’Rourke. "It also involves the friends that they are trick-or-treating with, as they explain what they are doing and why. It continues the conversation and doesn’t allow the issue to be forgotten--a yearly reminder."
"As long as there is a need, we will participate," adds McEvoy. "There are so many children who are mistreated and forced into labor at such a young age. St. Luke’s Sunday School has always been involved in global and local service--anything that we hear about that needs our help, we try to help."
Learn more from Equal Exchange about how to fair-trade your Halloween.