Heroes: The Chocolate Industry

After an eye-opening (and, let’s face it, depressing) look at Nestle, I really needed a wonderful company to come along and save my chocolate addiction for me.  Enter Endangered Species.  You may have seen their unassuming products at the supermarket (though, probably not, unless you shop at Whole Foods or have an affinity for pictures of wild animals).  They carry a variety of flavors, from fruit-infused to hazelnut to dark mocha- but that’s not what should draw you to this company.  In response to Nestle, in seems that Endangered Species is all about making the world a better place!

Right on the wrapper, you can see that the company is committed to donating 10% of their profits to charity.  Upon further investigation (all of this is detailed in their website) you can see that they have divided up their commitment into two categories: local and global.

Globally, Endangered Species is basically doing everything that Nestle is not.  Not only are they committed to sustainable farming practices, but they are actively involved with the farms that they buy from, both by promising to pay fair ages and funding sustainability projects in the local communities.  The company also boasts a formal commitment to not allowing any child or slave labor in either of their source locations- Ecuador and the Ivory Coast.

Located in Indiana, Endangered Species employees in the US are all involved with local charities and food bank projects.  Many times, they will donate surplus product that is about to expire.  Here is the list provided on their website:

Second Helpings (teaches culinary skills to homeless)

Gleaners Food Bank of America

Hope in Action

Humane Society of Indianapolis

Wheeler Mission (homeless shelter)

Peace Learning Center

In addition to being involved with these local charities, the company has founded the Endangered Species Chocolate Foundation, which couples their commitment to 10% profit donation with monies given from private donors.  This organization allows them to give grants to other conservation partners and to better fund the sustainability projects located in their involved communities in Ecuador and Ivory Coast.

Truly, this is a company worth supporting.  Next time you are in the grocery store, take a gander to the natural foods aisle, and you will likely find a section of chocolate- including Endangered Species!  My favorite is their Hazelnut & Currant.  Enjoy!

Other ethical brands of chocolate to consider: Divine, Green & Black’s, Rapunzel, Newman’s Own.

Zeroes: The Chocolate Industry

Let’s talk about chocolate.  I must confess that, if chocolate is something that you either take or leave, I most certainly take.  In large quantities.  In fact, I pretty much always have a bar of some exotic dark chocolate in my freezer, and I pretty much always have an ounce or two every day.  I’ve heard it said that chocolate can actually be considered a health food because of the antioxidants it carries- well, I run with that statement.

 

The chocolate industry has been one of the more controversial parts of consumerism in past years, and is an interesting one because there are so many facets to it: ingredients, ethical factory practices, fair trade, workers and farmers rights, location.  Being so complicated and multidimensional, it is very easy for companies to do it either very poorly, or very well.  Today, we will highlight our Zero!  If you missed yesterday’s post introducing this column, you can read it here.

 

Our villain for today is Nestle.  What is totally mind-boggling about Nestle is that they are one of those companies that ‘own everything’.  Seriously, here is a list of companies owned by Nestle:

 

Nescafe

Gerber

Purina

Hot Pockets (Chef America)

Stouffers

Haagen-Daaz

Pellegrino

Perrier

Jenny Craig Weight Loss Systems

Ovaltine

Carnation

Lean Cuisine

Buitoni

 

Nestle also is a major partner in owning General Mills and Coca-Cola, along with 26.4% of L’Oreal Cosmetics.  Each time you make a purchase of an item from any one of these companies, you are supporting Nestle.  So, think of these companies, and where your money goes, as we discuss the next few issues.

 

One of the most unsettling issues that has come to light surrounding Nestle is child slavery.  Studies have found that, in the cocoa bean farms in the Ivory Coast, a large percentage of labor was being done by 12-15 year olds, a number of whom had been trafficked there from surrounding countries.  In fact, in 2009, Interpol rescued 54 children from a farm allegedly contributing to Nestle products, and made 8 arrests connected to human trafficking.  In this same area, there also are allegations of aggressive takeovers of family farms- destroying communities in the process.  It is important to note, however, the likelihood that Nestle had no idea that these things were happening in their supply chain- this could potentially be reassuring, but I would rather support a company that takes care to work with suppliers who are ethical as well.

 

 

Another point of contention against Nestle is their involvement in the deforestation of Borneo, in the acquisition of Palm Oil (most commonly used as an ingredient in KitKat and Aero Bars).  This environmental nightmare not only is destroying precious rainforest space, but is endangering the lives of thousands of orangutans in that area.  While protests led Nestle to make statements that they were moving to find other alternatives to sourcing Palm Oil, there is no evidence that this has happened.

 

Nestle is one of many companies that have been accused of ‘greenwashing’- essentially false advertising in regards to the ‘green-ness’ of a certain product or process.  For Nestle, this was pertaining to their bottled water- they have run several campaigns marketing their bottled water as ‘recycled’ or ‘mostly recycled’ when, in fact, few to none of the bottles (or the materials used to construct them) were recycled at all.  Such campaigns have ceased, and no changes have been made to the bottled water process.

 

This story was the kicker for me- though unrelated to chocolate.  In 2002, Nestle decided to collect on a $6 Million debt that was owed to them by the Ethiopian government.  While one obviously has the right to collect on a debt owed to them, Nestle classily decided to do so while the country was in the middle of a famine.  So now, the starving Ethiopian government is forced to hand over all available funds to a chocolate company.  Public outrage did reach the ears of Nestle bigwigs, who promised to reinvest all monies received back into the Ethiopian communities.

 

Want more on Nestle?  Read up on their marketing of baby formula in underdeveloped countries in the 1970’s.  Research their involvement in union busting outside of the US.  Nestle was named both the Most Irresponsible Corporation and as a member of the ‘bottom rung’ on the Ladder of Responsibility by two different organizations.

 

Bastard Films produced the film, The Dark Side of Chocolate, in 2010, which deals with villains in the chocolate industry.  Read more about this project here.

 

Want to know more about where your chocolate is coming from?  All information included in this article is widely available from a simple google search.  Visit organicconsumers.org and search ‘slave chocolate’.  Hint: Starbucks is the first hit.  Bye-bye, signature hot chocolate!

 

Stay tuned for an encouraging look at our chocolate industry Hero tomorrow!

Heroes & Zeroes: An Introduction

As a believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ, I believe that I have the responsibility to make sure that each dollar that I spend is supporting the work of individuals that are bettering the world and upholding moral standards and ‘kingdom values’ of Christ.  As a good friend once asked me, ‘what good is it to tithe 10% in the name of justice and love, and give the other 90% to the oppressors?”  It is questions like these that should convict us and cause us to take a deeper look at where our money is going.

 

What makes a company ‘worth supporting’?  There are many facets to this question.  In this column, I intend to feature companies that are making the world a better place- this does not necessarily mean that they are Christian companies (in fact, many of them are not- which should show the Christian business world that they need to step up to the plate) but it means that these companies are holding themselves to standards of ethics and sustainability that should allow believers to feel comfortable knowing that their dollars are not funding any type of sinful or negligent practices.  This could be within the realm of environmental sustainability, ethical business practices, structures within companies that promote overall human equality, fare wages and working environments, response to public criticism, money given back to the community or charity, public disclosure, and countless other categories.

 

The fact is, many of the convenient locations that we spend our money are causing a direct negative impact on the lives of our brothers and sisters around the world.  Yes, there is a famine in Africa right now.  Yes, there is drought.  But is there a lack of food in the world?  Of course not.  Ghandi once wisely stated, ‘there is enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed’.  I believe that many Americans, including myself, make everyday choices, such as eating a steak or an imported food item, that cause (through a long chain of events) things like famine in Somalia to happen.  But I also believe that, through education about these choices, we can make change happen, too.

 

This column will hopefully inspire you to make each shopping decision mindfully, whether something as large as what airline to fly or as small as what toilet paper to use.  I will feature a specific product or genre, along with a brand to support and a brand to avoid within that category!

 

Have something you would like to see featured, or a specific question about a company or industry?  Leave it in the comments!

Foods You Never Knew You Liked: Spaghetti Squash

Huh?

Ok, so…is it a vegetable, or a pasta?  The answer is both, my friends.  Not really, but you’d never know the difference!  Spaghetti squash is one of those little miracles of nature that can only be explained as God’s little gift for creative cooks.  The flesh literally separates into strands, like angel hair spaghetti!  The great news is that it’s pretty cheap, easy to find (almost all grocery stores carry it now), it keeps forever, and because you don’t eat the skins, it’s not completely necessary to buy organic (but if you can, you should).

You can cook spaghetti squash in the microwave or in the oven.  I prefer the microwave- it’s much faster, and let’s be honest, that’s a big factor for me- but I know that there are countless studies about how microwaving food kills off the nutrients, so the oven is a perfectly good option as well.

Take a fork and basically ‘perforate’ a line around the squash lengthwise, as if you were going to cut it in half.  Throw it in the microwave for about 4 minutes or so.  The squash is very tough, so doing this allows you to cut the squash in half much more easily and without fear of impaling yourself on your best chef’s knife.

Once you cut the squash in half (microwave longer if necessary) remove as many seeds as possible and place the squash cut-sides down in a glass baking dish (like pyrex) along with ½ cup of water.  Microwave for about ten minutes.

Once cooked throughout (the flesh can be easily penetrated from the middle to the rind) turn the squash over and, using the tines of a fork, begin separating the strands.  Work from the middle out to the edges.  As you get chunks, separate them, too- and put your ready-to-eat ‘pasta’ into a serving bowl.  Do this until you have scraped out the entire squash!

You can now dress the ‘pasta’ however you like- butter and herbs, any type of marinara sauce, or my personal favorite- basil pesto and olive oil with some halved cherry tomatoes and shaved raw garlic.  Experiment with this, just like you would pasta!  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised…it’s delicious!

Humble Greetings!

Welcome, friends, to Feed Me: Feed the World!

What an experiment this will be!  There are a lot of facets and convictions behind this grand blog idea:  the economic responsibility of the Christian, healthy and mindful living, world hunger, corporate responsibility (or lack thereof), alternative medicine, the politics of food, the closed-mindedness of the average diner.

It’s taken me a long time to get to where I am, and I still have a long way to go.  Not so long ago, I drank a 40-oz Arizona Green Tea every day and picked the tomato chunks out of marinara sauce.  Somewhere along the line, I was challenged by things that I read and people that I met to move beyond my entrenched lifestyle and actually think about how I was treating my body.  This led me in many different directions- from being a strict vegetarian for a year to a very unsuccessful experiment in the raw foods diet and many places in between.  Through my travels, I have realized that many different diet styles keep many very different people healthy, and that the land usually yields what it’s people need.  I’ve learned the beauty of seasons, but I still eat KFC when I’m feeling blue.  I’ve learned to be honest with myself, gracious, observant.

My aim is to simply share the things that I have learned over the years, and that I am still learning- whether that be from a magazine, an encounter with spiritual truth, or a bad run-in with pork barbecue.  I am not a doctor, theologian, certified yoga practitioner or gourmet chef.  I will not claim things as truth if they are not, and I will cite my sources when I can.  I ask for your patience as I work out what this looks like, an open mind as you are challenged, and your grace as I make mistakes.

Here are a few of the ‘columns’ that I am working on:

-Quick and Easy Lunches

-Easy Health Tips

-Hidden Ingredients

-Foods You Didn’t Know You Like

-Heroes & Villians of the Industry

-Book, Film, and Article Reviews/Summaries

…and more in the works!

I welcome your criticism, suggestions, ideas, questions, and experiences.  Feel free to leave a comment here, or to email me at karli.vonherbulis@gmail.com 🙂

Be Well,

Karli