Archive | July, 2013

Raise your hand if you like chocolate…

29 Jul


75% of the world’s cocoa supply comes mainly from two countries in West Africa; Ghana and the Ivory Coast.  Cocoa from this region is sold to many chocolate companies including Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestle.  These companies in chocolate industry benefit directly from child labor, human trafficking, and modern day slavery.  In order to compete, cocoa farmers need child labor to keep their prices low because they are barely paid a living wage for their beans by these multi-million dollar chocolate companies.


Children end up working on these farms for several reasons.  They need to work to help support their families, they are sold by relatives to traffickers and farm owners, or they are abducted by traffickers from their small villages and sold into slavery.  The age of these boys is usually 12 – 16, although boys as young as 7 have been filmed doing the dangerous work of harvesting cocoa pods.  These kids are subject to beatings for working too slowly or trying to escape, they are exposed to toxic chemicals that are sprayed on the farm, and they work with machetes with the potential to sever appendages.  The children on these farms are not allowed an education, proper nutrition, and they live in unsanitary conditions.

Ten years ago the major chocolate companies promised to do something about these children and traffickers.  So far NOTHING has been done!  This year, they have made promises again to eradicate slavery from their supply chains, but it will be up to us, the consumers to hold them accountable.   If we keep buying their chocolate, we are continually contributing to the problems and misery of these kids.  Every holiday, every special occasion, every day chocolate lovers around the world indulge in the chocolaty goodness of child slavery!


The ILO says that the worst forms of child labor include, “likely to harm health, safety or morals of children”, if the children use “hazardous tools”, and the work “interferes with schooling”.  This describes what the children in West Africa live with daily.  For years Hershey’s, Nestle, and Mars have sourced their cocoa from these child abusers without batting an eye.  Only now, they have pledged to do something but is it just a public relations trick?  They say it’ll take years to source fair trade chocolate, but should we still go on buying their products waiting for the day when these kids are given a better way of life.  In another 10 years, the same problems will still exist and nothing will have changed unless, we take a stand today and stop buying slave produced chocolate, even on holidays and special occasions.  Most Americans have no idea where their favorite products come from…if they only knew, imagine the changes that can be made.  When your craving a candy bar, go for the ones that actually care about human beings…try a Green and Blacks, Alter Eco, Theo, Whole Foods Whole Trade Chocolate, Equal Exchange, and Sun Spire, just to name a few.   Slave harvested chocolate is cheap.  In order to pay farmers a fair wage and to source from farms that use ethical and sustainable practices, Fair Trade chocolate companies have to charge more for better quality!  Chocolate used to be a luxury and maybe convenience and low prices shouldn’t be the driving force behind our purchases.  I want to challenge you to take a stand, encourage your family and friends to join you too!  Together we can make a difference!!

Green and Blacksequal exchange SunSpire-Organic TheoChocolate1 wfmo_dark_chocolate_tanzania1

Check out these resources for more information:

Global Exchange

Fair World Project

Food Empowerment Project

The Dark Side of Chocolate

The Dark Side of Chocolate documentary


Abolitionists on a mission…

6 Jul

Abolitionists in Northeast FloridaMe, in the red, with my fellow abolitionists
Libby Mahoney, President of The Cooking Activist Company with fellow abolitionists at a human trafficking awareness event at Florida Blue, Jacksonville Florida.  Libby is in the polka dot dress.  From left to right:  1st picture; Paul Restivo – JSO, Crystal Freed, Libby Mahoney, Maricel Alaras, Michelle Clowe, Silvia Almond and 2nd picture; Libby Mahoney, Michelle Clowe, Maricel Alaras, Bernard Alaras, Seth Johnson, Crystal Freed.

So, I came across this publication while on Facebook the other day.  One of my fellow abolitionists posted this and asked the question, why isn’t the church doing more to  help these youngsters?

Monica, our vice president, and I have a mission and a goal, and we are working on the plan to reach our goal.  This pdf really brought home the dire needs of foster kids in Florida!  The most devastating statistic in this publication is that 70% of  kids trafficked in Florida are foster kids!  I can’t really wrap my brain around that.  It is staggering.  How can we make a difference?  How can the church do something about this?

One of the things that we are passionate about is helping the  youth in our city.  The girls aging out of foster care that have no where to go.  The kids being abused and trafficked that are lost in the system.  The homeless kids that are sleeping in the woods in the most affluent areas of Northeast Florida.  The orphans and throwaway kids that have no families.  How can a parent just throw their kid out onto the streets?  One frightening statistic is that within 48 hours on the street, a runaway is approached by a trafficker.  There has got to be something that we, as a community, as a church, as citizens and humans can do to make a difference.

Our first step, that we have already started, is to raise awareness about it.  The Cooking Activist Company has attended many events over the last 2 1/2 years with the purpose of raising awareness about human trafficking and modern day slavery.

The Cooking Activist Company Awareness Table
The Cooking Activist’s Table
World Relief of Jacksonville's awareness table
World Relief Jacksonville’s Table

I’m known around this circle of friends and abolitionists as The Cooking Activist.  Above is a picture of my table and next to it is a picture of Michelle Clowe’s table from World Relief.  We’ve been doing events together, Michelle and I, with some of the folks pictured above for the last 2 1/2 years.  We are joining forces to get the word out about what is going on in the dark places of our city, our nation, and our world.

Our next step is to raise money for our future plans.  The Cooking Activist Company is now a cottage food operation that sells homemade baked goods with fair trade and organic ingredients.  Monica and I are starting from scratch, no pun intended, without much seed money to really get things going, because we need a way to fund our plans. We decided that a for-profit social enterprise was the way to go!  I am the baker and personal chef and Monica is the networking guru and event planner.  Monica is the one who organized this Florida Blue event from the pictures in this post.

Panelists engaging the audience and educating them about trafficking and slavery

On the panel of this Florida Blue event are (left to right):
Paul Restivo, a JSO detective who works on human trafficking cases in Jacksonville; Seth Johnson, a volunteer for Transitions Global; Crystal Freed of The Freed Firm and former co-chair of the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Task Force; and Michelle Clowe of World Relief and current Chair of the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Task Force.

So we’ve got the awareness thing going really well and we are working on raising money to implement our plan.  Our ultimate goal is to build a boarding school/residential home for these kids I mentioned above.  How do we help the kids that are lost in the system?  How do we reach out to those kids before they are kicked out of the house or within that 48 hour window?  What about the foster kids who are being abused chose to runaway as a means to escape?  We face a daunting task, that’s for sure!

My church, Celebration Church of Jacksonville, is taking the Gospel to the streets!  We want to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and bring Jesus’ love to those feeling unloved! Celebration Church is passionate about local outreach and they are starting a new initiative called Serve Your City.  This is the next step for Monica and I, to get in the trenches and serve the youth in our city.  I’ve been serving with Sisterhood in the City, Newtown Outreach and I will begin serving with Shine Girls, a local outreach for middle school girls. Monica serves at the Hubbard House with the Zonta Club of Jacksonville and she serves with Shine Girls.  I can’t wait to see where God places us and our company and the many lives that will be changed through our efforts.

Our next awareness event will be on July 12th.  The Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Coalition is putting on an event to show a new documentary called “Dreams Die Hard”.  It will be held at UNF in Jacksonville.  For more information please visit the Coalition Facebook page.

We have more things in the works and we are looking for some like-minded people to join our team!  Please email Libby at for more information on how you can help us reach our goals!