Does chocolate taste sweeter when it has freedom in the recipe?
The Freedom Café attempted to answer that question on Tuesday night, when they hosted a “Chocolate Fondue Protest Party” which taught people about the connection between human trafficking and the chocolate industry.
Bryan Bessette, director of the Freedom Café, led the discussion and activities, informing an audience of approximately 30 students on the reality of human trafficking. While Bessette was talking, there was a fondue of fairly sourced chocolate with strawberries, bananas, and graham crackers available for guests.
The Freedom Café has dedicated its mission to increasing awareness and action to end commercial exploitation of all people. Over the last four years, The Freedom Café has raised $8,000 towards ending what many refer to as “modern-day slavery.”
“It was an encouraging event; it had a great turnout and an engaged audience,” Bessette said. “That’s what we really hoped for.”
According to the International Labor Organization, forced labor makes an estimated $150 billion in profit per year. It comes in as the second largest source of illegal income worldwide, exceeded only by drug trafficking. The Food Empowerment Project states that in recent years, the widespread use of child labor on cocoa farms in West Africa has been exposed by a handful of organizations and journalists. However, it remains an invisible crime largely due to the secrecy within the industry.
Heather Bies, UNH senior, listened intently to Bessette while enjoying her ethically sourced chocolate and assortment of dippers.
“I was vaguely aware of human trafficking but I didn’t realize the extent of the impact until coming to the Freedom Café,” Bies said. “This is an eye-opening sort of event.”
Sophomore Jamie Schena was another audience member who was “shocked” with what Bessette had to say about the chocolate industry’s link to human trafficking.
“I never really made the connection and realized that something like that could happen,” Schena said.
This was Schena’s first time at the Freedom Café, remarking that she really liked the “environment” and hoped to frequent the hidden gem more often now that she knows about it.
“There’s nothing else like this on campus,” Schena said. “I can see myself just coming here for a cup of coffee and doing homework, too.”
Sophomore Elden Gray, a Freedom Café volunteer, thought the event was “successful.”
“The chocolate fondue party is one of the many catchy events the café puts on,” Gray said. “They’re good ways to bring people together and into the cause, without any guilt.”
Bessette concluded the event with time for any questions related to human trafficking from the audience. He stressed the importance of knowing the source of many products, not just chocolate.
“Each of us do what we can do and we put it into the hands of others so they will hopefully do what they can do,” Bessette said.
Devoted chocolate lovers everywhere can still enjoy their favorite treat, but according to the Freedom Café, it is important to keep these questions in mind while doing so: Who picks your cocoa? What will you do about it?