#CombattheSilenceJH: Local student advocates to 'Raise the Bar Chocolate Companies!'

(Jackson, Wyo.) - Jackson Hole Middle School 7th grader Trey Dykeman wants chocolate companies to stop using child labor practices. Learn more in his essay below. Learn about the local students who #CombattheSilenceJH here. *Raise The Bar Chocolate Companies! * *By Trey Dykeman* I'm looking for chocolate at Smith’s, trying to find the delicious dessert I have enjoyed for many years. I am concerned only with myself and my desire for the milky treat. But when we go to check out, my mom tells me to return it. I stop for a second. Then I whine, “But you always let me get chocolate”! She replies “Yeah, I know, but Hershey’s has been using child slave labor in their chocolate.” This was the first I had ever heard of child labor in the chocolate industry. Child slave labor in the chocolate industry is something we need to raise awareness about and change, yet few people know about it. *Background Information* Globally, we spent over $101 billion on chocolate last year (CNN). If even half of the world’s chocolate consumers refused to purchase chocolate made with cacao harvested by child slave laborers, then chocolate companies would be forced to change their business practices or risk huge financial losses. These children are being taken away from their families and forced to work on cacao farms. According to Knight Ridder Newspaper, “On some of the farms, the hot, hard work of clearing the fields and harvesting the fruit is done by boys and girls who were sold or tricked into slavery. Most of them are between the ages of 12 and 16. Some are as young as 7.” (Knight Ridder Newspapers). This provides an example of what work the children have to do and how they got to be to that place. We need to understand that child slave labor is a serious problem and we need to change it. Children are being tricked and sold into slavery, and we are doing very little to change it. *Why is Child Labor Used?* The reasons for this are complicated, but it is mostly caused because of poverty and greed. “Violence (or the threat of violence) and coercion (loss of choice and freedom) and poverty cause slavery to be a decision born out of economic necessity.” (Sackett) From this evidence , you can infer that the children are being sold by their own families so they can support themselves. Poverty is a cause for the children being sold to work, which is what creates this problem. We have to understand these causes and imagine not only how horrible it would be to be a slave, but also how it must feel to live in an area so poverty stricken that you have to sell your family to be able to afford food. *Effects of Child Labor* The effects of child labor are even more devastating. “Americans spend over 13 billion dollars on chocolate each year, and it’s cheap because of the child labor. Why do you think it only costs $1.50 for a chocolate bar?”(Sackett) This question, asked by Marjie Sackett, helps understand how Hershey’s manages to make a large amount of chocolate for a small amount of money. “It only costs about $1.50 to make 15 chocolate bars” (Bastard Film & TV) and their annual income is about $7 ½ billion per year (Marketwatch Financial), so they might as well use money for this: They manage to make so much because of the child labor allowing for cheap labor, and cheap cacao. And the effects on the children are even worse. The children are exposed to harmful pesticides, they are whipped, beaten, and have to do backbreaking work with dangerous tools, a job not even fit for an inexperienced adult. So the labor allows Hershey’s to make large profit and results in children being taken away from their families, exposed to chemicals, whipped and beaten, and possibly never seeing their family again. *The Solution!* After reading this evidence, some might say that we should revolt, and protest with large picket signs; but this is a solution that will be difficult and lead to argument. We need to be more thoughtful. We need to boycott chocolate and other products from brands such as Hershey’s, Nestlé, and Mars. Hershey’s, Nestlé, and Mars own a lot of brands, so even if you’re not eating chocolate, your Jolly Rancher is still made by a brand that is tainted with child labor. For a list of brands, you can go to,, and Nestlé.com. As a matter of fact, Hershey’s and its associate brands have 342 products and counting. Hershey’s total revenue was at $14 billion at 2014 (Marketwatch Financial). With new acquisitions and two years, who knows how much it's gone up? If even half of us stopped buying from these brands, they would be forced to change their ways or suffer severe financial loss. “The children are trafficked across the border, and from there are put to work on the cacao farms. The children are ages 7-13” These kids are put to work at a young age with little to no pay, and then kept there possibly forever. Therefore, the best thing we can do is stop buying these products to force brands to either raise the bar or lose out on a lot of money. *What Else Can You do?* Now you know that child slave labor in the cacao industry is something we have to change soon. But before you step away and (hopefully) think “Maybe I’ll have me some slave free chocolate”, There is something you can do. Yes! You! What I have done to help is give a presentation to my entire middle school to help raise awareness in my community. I also set up a stand outside a store with informational pamphlets, handed them out, and talked to the customers about child slave labor free chocolate. In addition, I hope that I informed you of this huge problem. So what you can do to take action is share this information and buy ONLY child slave labor free chocolate. For more information, I have created an Instagram account with facts and helpful tips and ideas every week. Follow @slavefreechocolateinfo to see this account. And finally, you can help by making a donation to, which will also have a list of 72 slave free chocolate brands. Thank you for spending the time to become well informed, and remember to buy ONLY slave labor free chocolate. *Citations* The Dark Side of Chocolate. Dir. Miki Mistrati and Robin Romano. Bastard Film & TV, 2010. Film. Raghavan, Sudarsan, and Sumana Chatterjee. “How Your Chocolate May Be Tainted.” Knight Ridder Newspapers: 1-3. Print. Sackett, Marjie. “Forced Child Labor and Cocoa Production in West Africa.” Topical Research Digest: Human Rights and Contemporary Slavery. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print. *Feature Photo: Trey Dykeman / Pitchengine Communities* #buckrail #news #combatthesilencejh