UMCOR / News Room / News & Features / Archives 2009 / 0326 - Buy Chocolate, Help Farmers

Buy Chocolate, Help Farmers, Agency Says

A UMNS Story

*by Linda Bloom

March 26, 2009—When June Kim says she’d like everyone to buy a ton of chocolate for Easter, she isn’t kidding.

But she is very specific about the type of chocolate it should be. Kim is in charge of the yearlong 100-Ton Challenge of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, which ends on May 9, World Fair Trade Day.As of March 4, United Methodist congregations and individuals participating in the challenge had bought 69.3 tons of fairly traded products through the UMCOR Partner Equal Exchange --115,506 pounds of coffee, 9,729 pounds of chocolate, 8,085 pounds of cocoa, 2,614 pounds of snack items, 2,108 pounds of tea and 501 pounds of organic sugar.

Kim is encouraging purchases of any of these items – especially the weightier ones, like chocolate and coffee – to help the denomination reach the 100-ton goal. “If we buy it for our homes, I think we can make it, especially with the chocolate lovers,” she says. “Orders received until May 9 will count toward the challenge.”

The challenge was started to increase awareness of fair trade, which helps small farmers and their communities – mostly in Latin America, Africa and Asia – and the UMCOR Coffee Project with Equal Exchange. Fifteen cents of every pound of product sold through the project supports farmers through UMCOR’s Sustainable Agriculture and Development Program. That program helps farmers learn new methods of crop cultivation.Filling Easter basketsKim points out that the Organic Dark Chocolate Minis are perfect for Easter baskets. And the newest 3.5-oz. chocolate bar, Organic Orange Dark Chocolate, made with 65 percent cacao content and citrus, is very popular.

Filling Easter Baskets

Kim points out that the Organic Dark Chocolate Minis are perfect for Easter baskets. And the newest 3.5-oz. chocolate bar, Organic Orange Dark Chocolate, made with 65 percent cacao content and citrus, is very popular.

Like the other Equal Exchange chocolates, the minis and organic orange bars are made with cocoa from two farmer cooperatives - CONACADO in the Dominican Republic and CACVRA in Peru - and fairly traded organic sugar from cooperatives in Paraguay and Costa Rica.

Other bars available are Organic Panama Extra Dark Chocolate (also new), Organic Very Dark Chocolate, Organic Dark Chocolate with Almonds, Organic Milk Chocolate with a Hint of Hazelnut, Organic Mint Chocolate with a Delicate Crunch, Organic Chocolate Espresso Bean and Organic Dark Chocolate with Pure Cocoa Nibs.

Those ordering chocolate before May 1 will incur lower shipping costs. Between May 1 and Oct. 1, expedited shipping and insulated packaging are required to prevent melting during the warmer weather.

Kim admits that she is not a chocolate eater herself, "but I do love their hot chocolate. I understand their spicy hot chocolate is to die for."

Coffee Hour or Fundraiser

Products are sold by the case. Many congregations use Equal Exchange products at coffee hour or to sell as fundraisers, but Kim notes that a case purchase may work for individuals as well. A case of coffee, for example, is only six bags. "It's not a lot for even a household, if they're coffee drinkers," she says.

United Methodist participation in Equal Exchange continues to grow and does not seem to be affected by the economic downturn, according to Kim. In fact, chocolate and all other types of sweets are in demand. A March 24 New York Times story reports that Americans adults in particular are consuming more candy these days, perhaps as an inexpensive pick-me-up or "nostalgic reminder of better times."

Last year, 370 congregations joined the UMCOR Coffee Project for the first time, for a total of 3,242 congregations since the project began in 2002. That represented a 19 percent increase over 2007, Kim says.

Total volume sold through Equal Exchange's interfaith program was up 4 percent in 2008, for a total of 529 tons. "United Methodist participation was the single largest denominational purchase in their interfaith program," she adds, with $1.3 million in sales.

More information about the 100-Ton Challenge and ordering instructions can be found on UMCOR's Web site and at Equal Exchange.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.