A large majority of people within the United States are capable of walking into a grocery store, grabbing what is needed for their dinner that evening, and leaving without consciously considering the impact that food product had on another person’s life. Thinking contemplatively about where our food comes from isn’t a common practice, and if we rarely consider where our food comes from than I am also willing to bet that we don’t at all reflect on who produced that food.
Let’s take a moment to consider the growing, harvesting, and selling of one of the world’s most precious bean: the cocoa bean.
When we think of cocoa, we often picture its end product; a sweet, rectangular shaped treat that makes a person’s taste buds perform a joyous dance of satisfaction. However, this end product has been heavily processed and loaded with sugar to mask the beans natural earthy and bitter taste. In fact, if you were to present a piece of chocolate to a cocoa farmer he would be in disbelief at its flavor; our class observed this in a short video clip featuring interviews with cocoa farmers in Africa whose faces filled with delight at tasting the “treat that white people love”.
It was bewildering to learn that many cocoa farmers had never experienced the end product of the food that they labored so hard for. Why is it that the laborers of the food we eat be denied the ability to savor their harvest the way that we do? Simply answered, it is because of the inequalities that persist in the world food system, and the exploitation of regions with pristine growing conditions for highly sought after ingredients (such as the cocoa bean on the Ivory Coast of Africa).
The next time that you are wandering the aisles of the grocery store, and find yourself reaching for a chocolate bar, take a moment to consider buying a bar whose ingredients aren’t sourced from exploited farms but rather farmers whose livelihoods are factored in to the products creation.