The Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) is a small non-profit here in the Bay Area that ascribes to the old adage – Think Globally, Act Locally. Their goal:
create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one’s food choices. We encourage choices that reflect a more compassionate society by spotlighting the abuse of animals on farms, the depletion of natural resources, unfair working conditions for produce workers, the unavailability of healthy foods in communities of color and low-income areas, and the importance of not purchasing chocolate that comes from the worst forms of child labor.
Locally they work with farm workers to improve their working and living conditions (including a yearly school supply drive for the children of these workers), and raising awareness about the food deserts in the Bay Area and working to get more fresh food into these areas.
Globally one of their primary projects is the issue of child labor and slavery in the chocolate industry.
Chocolate is a product of the cacao bean (commonly referred to as cocoa), which grows primarily in the tropical climates of Western Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Western African countries, mostly Ghana and the Ivory Coast, supply more than 70% of the world’s cocoa. The cocoa they grow and harvest is sold to a majority of chocolate companies, including the largest in the world.
In recent years, a handful of organizations and journalists have exposed the widespread use of child labor, and in some cases slavery, on cocoa farms in Western Africa. Since then, the industry has become increasingly secretive, making it difficult for reporters to not only access farms where human rights violations still occur, but to then disseminate this information to the public. … The farms of Western Africa supply cocoa to international giants such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestlé—revealing the industry’s direct connection to the worst forms of child labor, human trafficking, and slavery.
In order to help consumers buy chocolate sourced from areas free from slavery, F.E.P. created the Chocolate List and an app for iPhones and Android phones. The list looks at companies that sell vegan chocolate and is quite extensive. It is broken down into several categories – recommend, cannot recommend (and a subset of those working on the problem), and those companies that wouldn’t disclose suppliers or didn’t respond.
Please visit F.E.P.’s website, download the app and learn more about how the issues of social and economic justice are tied into the food we eat.