Fair Trade and One Small, Inconsistent Decision

We are studying West Africa in grade six right now.  The text book chapter we read described its natural resources, climate, and geography–the usual things that text books cover.  There was one sentence alluding to fact that farmers often get paid very little for their produce while large companies reap most of the profits.  I took that line and ran with it.  My pace quickened and I could hear my voice getting higher:

“Who knows what fair trade is?”

Hands shoot up and fingers wiggle in the air.

The first two eager students are wildly off the mark.

I produce a fair trade chocolate bar from my desk, unwrap it, and pop a square in my mouth.

“Mmm… this is sooo good.  I wish you knew what fair trade meant…”

More hands shoot up.

More wrong answers.

Finally I give in and share my understanding of the idea, along with a short video featuring child slaves harvesting cacao in Ghana; none of whom have ever tasted chocolate.

The room goes silent, then erupts with students wanting to talk about it.  Everyone who responds gets a sliver of chocolate.

Fast forward to one day later...

Just before going to school I check the birthday calendar and see Sam for September 7.  I remember the teacher I am filling in for always brings the birthday person an ice cream bar on their special day, so I plan to swing by the store quickly and pick up a box of bars before class.  On my way to the store, I also remember something else.  Ice cream bars are made with chocolate and sugar; two risky ingredients to buy if I am concerned about fair trade.

Now what do I do?  I don’t want to spend $3.50 on each kid for a fair trade chocolate bar–there are thirty of them, so that would cost me more than a hundred bucks if I did it for all of them!

I arrive at the classroom empty handed, with nothing more than an apology for Sam.  I explain to the whole class that I was on my way to the store when I remembered why I couldn’t purchase the ice cream bar.

Fast forward to today…

The crazy thing is, none of this makes sense or is really consistent with the way I live.  In a few days time I will probably reach for the tin of cheap hot chocolate mix in my cupboard, and think nothing of it while I make myself a cup.  I shudder to think of the percentage of goods in my house that were produced in inhumane or unfair conditions.  And yet, on Friday, I knew I couldn’t buy the stinkin’ ice cream bars.

So, today I will be giving Sam a fairly traded chocolate bar.  I’m 3 days late for his birthday, and it’s not terribly logical–how much difference can one chocolate bar really make?–but perhaps one right choice is better than none at all.


This weekend I was in a fit of overwhelm, anxiety, and insecurity.  Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?  I don’t know how all you seasoned veterans out there manage, but I’m struggling to balance home with work.  Saturday morning my mind was churning with bad equations:  hanging clothes to dry on the line + cooking from scratch + harvesting food form the garden …. +…. + work EQUALS happy mama.

Then, I went to the school to prep for a few hours and came home to this:

While I was away Stan had gotten groceries, mowed the lawn, taken the clothes off the line, and made Sushi with the girls.  I was grateful and the tiniest bit chagrined (why does he have to make it look so easy!), but mostly grateful.  By the way, have you every tried prosciutto, cream cheese and arugula in sushi rolls?  (Yes, we were fridge-diving at that point.)  They sure go down easy.

the prosciutto and arugula rolls


2 thoughts on “Fair Trade and One Small, Inconsistent Decision

  1. That sushi looks gorgeously delicious and I hear you on how hard it is to be consistently fighting the good fight, with chocolate purchases and everything else. I think it’s great that you introduced your students to some hard lessons.

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