Friday, March 27, 2015

Weekly Homeschool Wrap-Up: The One With Cocoa and Bread

This week we took a "spring break" from most regular subjects to learn about the cocoa industry and develop a family mission statement regarding the cocoa industry and our chocolate consumption. 

We also committed this week to learning to bake bread, after the arrival of our bread machine in the mail last week. Read more on that saga below, after the cocoa information.

CNN did a series of reports about the cocoa supply chain in 2012, and followed up on those reports in March 2014. While there are numerous Internet sources of information, we have thus far focused on infographics with accompanying narratives (this linked one is older info. from 2008), and the more recently produced CNN specials, some of which are detailed below.

Here is the word on Nestle:

(From CNN, 2012) An independent investigation into Nestlé's cocoa supply chain has found numerous child labor violations and kickstarted an ambitious plan to eventually eradicate forced labor and child labor in its production cycle.

The study was carried out by the Fair Labor Association with Nestlé's support.

"Our investigation of Nestlé's cocoa supply chain represents the first time a multinational chocolate producer has allowed its procurement system to be completely traced and assessed. For too long child labor in cocoa production has been everybody's problem and therefore nobody's responsibility," said FLA President Auret van Heerden.

It means Nestlé is the first chocolate-maker to comprehensively map its cocoa supply chain – and can work on identifying problems areas, training and educating workers and taking action against child labor violations.
Read the rest here.

The story about another major player in the chocolate industry (Ferrero):

(From 2012) Chocolate maker Ferrero has pledged to eradicate slavery from farms where it sources its cocoa by 2020, as part of a growing movement by the multi-billion dollar industry to clean up its supply chains.

The Italian company, which produces Ferrero Rocher chocolates, Nutella spread and Kinder eggs, follows Nestle and Hershey as the third major chocolate manufacturer to announce new anti-slavery moves since September.
Read the rest here.

Here is the word on Hershey

The Hershey company, one of the United States' leading chocolate producers, says it's pledged $10 million over the next five years to educate West African cocoa farmers on improving their trade and combating child labor.

The region is home to about 70% percent of the world's cocoa but has also been the source of recent scrutiny over its alleged use of child labor. (More about the issue)

Hershey's announcement Monday heartened activists, who say the company is finally focusing efforts on improving the root cause of the issue.

"It's a start," said Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum. "We see this as a welcome first step toward accountability."
Read the rest here.

As I mentioned, CNN followed up on these 2012 segments in March 2014, with this 25-minute documentary.

Here is my take, gathered so far, based upon the research we've done (we're not done researching). Poverty is always a multi-faceted issue. The more you learn about abject poverty, the more you understand there are no simple solutions. I've come to believe that the way Compassion International responds to abject poverty is the best the world has to offer. You have to fight poverty in Jesus' name, one child at a time, through relationship. Otherwise, you can find yourself losing as much as you gain in this fight. Jesus is the answer to real change, both on the physical poverty level, and the spiritual poverty level. While the first world doesn't suffer from abject physical poverty, we definitely suffer from spiritual poverty, which is why we like to spend and keep our money for ourselves, always trying to improve our already-stellar living conditions.

The bottom line in the current cocoa climate is this: The big chocolate companies are now getting involved in improving the cacao farming industry not so much because they care about poverty or children, but because the industry is in trouble. Production is not sustainable under current conditions. Many of the West African trees are diseased and the small family farmers have no capital to put into improvements. Moreover, the price they receive for their intensive labor in growing and readying the beans has gone down markedly from the 1980's. They're barely making it. Many are leaving their farms for the cities, and others are switching to rubber or palm oil farms, which are more lucrative.

Most of the children working on the farms are the children of the farmers, but many are also trafficked from neighboring African countries, like children from families in desperate poverty in Burkina Faso. We have a Compassion correspondent child in Burkino Faso, who before his sponsorship through Compassion, was likely vulnerable to being trafficked to the Ivory Coast. The children are promised good wages and good living conditions, and even school, but instead, they are treated like slaves and often go back to Burkina Faso with barely enough bus money. They use dangerous tools like machetes and handle dangerous pesticides without protective gear, working long hours with little food.

Research and decide how you will change your chocolate consumption and spending habits. That is step one. Another way to do your part is to prevent the desperate situations these trafficked children are in by sponsoring children through Compassion. Above and beyond your $38 a month sponsorship money, try to send your child monetary gifts as often as you can (even $50 goes a long way), to help the family start a small business and/or purchase mattresses and non-leaking roof supplies, and food. All of your family or child gift money goes directly to the child's family. Compassion works with the family to assess their needs, and takes them shopping to spend all of your gift funds. Then, a picture is taken of what was purchased, with the child in the picture, and sent to you in a letter from the child. You will also receive at least three other letters per year from your child, guaranteed, and you are encouraged to write at least monthly.

Just being able to sleep better helps these children perform better in school. Before they receive help from Compassion and from you, most sleep on the ground, sometimes with a leaking tin roof over their heads. Compassion pays their school fees and trains their families in best health practices, provides health care and fosters emotional, physical, and spiritual growth. Most importantly of course, through Compassion's child development centers, sponsored children are taught about Jesus Christ and guided in developing a saving relationship with Him. They are not required to become Christians to be served, however.

The child development centers are run out of partnerships with local churches, using their buildings, with Compassion employees heading the programs. Often the children also attend the partnering church, but some attend other churches, or don't attend church at all. There are no religious requirements--just sound Biblical teaching. The Lord does the work in these children's hearts. Of the Compassion children we write to, I am certain that four of them have growing relationships with Christ.

Parents and high schoolers are also taught vocational skills at the Compassion child development centers, and good students can go to college as part of Compassion's  Leadership Development Program.

Back to the cocoa industry now. We will be continuing to find current information through the weekend, and will hopefully develop a family cocoa mission statement by next week. The problem is not just in the cocoa industry. Child labor is also used in cotton fields and other farming industries, and you probably already know about other evil child trafficking. To prevent exploitation we have to sponsor children so they don't continue in desperate, vulnerable situations. Buying fair trade makes a positive impact, but it needs to be combined with child sponsorship. Otherwise, desperate third-world families will fall prey to some other evil scheme.

Here is more current information about the cocoa situation in West African, from a site called Food Is Power. This site recommends chocolates that are sourced without child labor. It notes that even some fair trade chocolate is not immune to the problem of child labor. It also lists companies that are working on the problem in some way, and those that won't disclose any information. Trader Joe's is one company who would not disclose their cocoa sourcing.

Bread Making at Home...the Beginner's Saga

I mentioned in last week's wrap-up that we bought a bread making machine, as part of "clean" eating. If you've looked at the label on even the healthiest store-bought bread, you're probably convinced that homemade is better, if you've got the time and inclination. We had the inclination and were determined to make the time.

The most important point about eating clean foods is not that they'll possibly prolong your life and make you more comfortable while you're here. That may seem like the point at first, but as I thought about the time involved and as we lived it, something else occurred to me.

How busy does God really want us to be? If we're too busy to prepare real foods, then something is off balance. Cooking and eating together is precious. So much growth and bonding and blessing occurs as we do these things as one unit. Working with our hands and hearts to bless our families is worth our time! And it's worth our family's time to help us in the kitchen, so that many hands make light work.

Now, if you're nursing a new baby or about to have one, enlist all the help you can get but don't worry about revamping your family's food preparation. Love on that baby and pray for an army of help. There are definitely seasons when getting anything on the table feels monumental. I once had four children 7 and under so I know how it goes.

Have I ever mentioned that I am a very determined person? Every good trait has a flip side, and of course I'm also stubborn. Once I have it on my mind that something is important, I brace myself and persevere through trials. Nursing each of my four children was challenging. There were complications ranging from post-partum preeclampsia and babies who took weeks to learn to latch, most likely due to an oversupply of milk and the fact that they were all born a couple weeks early. There were tears and prayers and desperate nights and weeks. It was the most intense time of my life, but each child eventually learned and nursed a long time, ranging from 13 months to 4.5 years (the latter because this child has an autoimmune disease and needed the breastmilk antibodies longer).

As I tried to make yeast bread this week, I thought about my nursing trials. Yes, yeast is that complicated. There are a number of tips out there for novice bakers whose bread won't rise. For half the week I felt like a failure, carrying a scarlet-letter sign: "Certified Yeast Idiot".

Online baking sights, however, were very encouraging, indicating that everyone fumbles at first. I picked myself up and decided that my kitchen would become an everyday bread factory and the only significant thing required was patience...okay, and a little science.

If you want to get it right, you have to become a scientist, altering one thing at a time and recording what you've done, until you get it right. And then, next season, as temperatures and humidity change, so might your ingredients proportions.

I discovered that the bread machine kneads better than a human, but it doesn't bake better. For the best results, use it on the dough cycle and let it do all the hard work for you, and then merely take out the dough, knock it down and shape it, putting it into the pan and letting it rise in a warm oven for another hour or so, and then bake for 30 minutes. 

I've learned that your measuring tools and even your pans have to be precise--we're really talking science here, but don't let that scare you. It becomes second nature soon enough, which hasn't happened for me yet!

Your family, with the delicious bread in their hands, honey dripping, will feel like royalty. Homemade bread is a privilege to make for your loved ones. It's a delicious blessing that goes beyond the taste and lovely texture. It's an act of love. (Made considerably more sustainable with the advent of bread machines)

We got the bread maker last Friday, and it was Wednesday before we had a rise like this, which still wasn't exactly right. I used too much yeast twice, but as I got that right, the machine let the dough rise too long, and it fell as soon as baking commenced. Finally, I decided to let it rise the last time in my oven, allowing me more control over the outcome.

In the summer when I don't want to heat up the house, we'll use the bake function on the bread machine.

Also, at first I was using regular active dry yeast, which stated on the jar that it could be used in bread machines. Turns out, there is an instant yeast that is not necessarily the same as the quick-rising yeast, and it's this instant yeast that is best for bread machines. I bought it tonight and will hopefully get a more even and complete rise tomorrow.

The bread below was our best so far (with just the active dry yeast), which includes 100% whole white wheat (an albino wheat that tastes less grainy, but is still 100% whole wheat) mixed with a quarter cup of flax seed.

It's still delicious, but you can see that the rise wasn't even. Whole wheat flour makes a denser bread and is harder to work with, requiring more practice time and determination. However, the fiber in our diets is important so it's worth it to learn to work with whole wheat flour. Most of us don't regularly get enough fruits and veggies to meet the 25 to 30 grams a day of recommended fiber (average American eats 15 grams daily). Foods high in fiber include whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

Flax seed hides well in foods, not having much taste on its own. It adds healthy fat (Omega-3) to our diets as well as fiber and vitamins & minerals. You can also try it in pancake batter along with whole wheat flour. The pancakes are delicious.

Flax seed nutritional facts: This food is very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Thiamine and Manganese.

Read More

So, our bread saga continues. I'll keep you posted. 

How was your week, friends? Thank you for reading here and have a great weekend!

Weekly Wrap-Up


Mary said...

I think any commitment to eradicating slavery is commendable, but it's dishonest and not serving to eradicate it, when the onus is put on consumers. Don't get me wrong, I do believe in speaking up to a corporation when they're doing wrong, but in the instance of the cocoa trade, the problem is, the slavery is going on in communist/socialist controlled Latin American and African countries, where the people have no rights and are slaves of the state. The only thing that would change this would be pressuring those countries with trade embargos if they didn't free these people and pay them a fair wage, unfortunately our current govt allies with these despots.

Before closing, I wouldn't think too highly of Nestle. Their chairman, formerly the ceo, but he's been rewarded with a higher position since then, has called for public drinking water supplies to be controlled by his corporation, and clean drinking water not be considered a right of the people. Here he is on video saying just that:

Mary said...

Watch this video of Nestle's chairman calling for the US public drinking water supply to be placed in Nestles hands and sold to the highest bidder

Christine said...

Oh, yes. Nestle has a huge credibility problem with its bottling water plants as well. Money, not ethics, drives them. The next thing our family needs to do is stop using bottled water.

Thanks, Mary, for your input!

Anonymous said...

Several thoughts:

Thanks for the tip about the breadmaker. I bought mine for £10 in a charity shop and it's great, but the bread could be better. I will try it on the dough setting.

We also send extra money to our Compassion child every month. Sometimes it is just for her, sometimes a family gift, occasionally a 'project' gift. She always buys clothes. It took me several instances to realise that with our gifts we are keeping this child clothed.

Lastly, bottled water is one of the most ridiculous extravagances on the planet. We bought some stainless steel flasks to use instead, which are convenient and a lot cheaper. As for Nestle, they also *still* promote bottle feeding over breastfeeding in poor countries where they know full well the women don't have access to adequate sterilisation. It's not done as overtly as in the past, but it's still there.

I watched the youtube video from Mary. Very interesting, particularly having studied water rights and water access as part of my degree. We have privatised water here in the UK, but it is under strict government control to prevent profits coming before people. I think this middle road is probably a solution, but not the only one, to the problem of access to clean water, which I do believe is a basic human right - one which I and many others take for granted. I only have to walk a few feet and turn on a tap. It's an everyday miracle.

Christine said...

Capitalism has gone wrong when companies like Nestle can continue to operate in grossly unethical ways. Coca Cola began to bottle water in India and India drove them out. They were polluting the water supply and ruining crops because of their unethical practices. As much as governmental control has its problems, especially in countries with corrupt governments, to allow the huge conglomerates free reign has failed miserably.

Thank you for your help with all this, Mary and Sandy. We have poor water quality here and need to invest in a filter. You've convinced me it needs to be very soon. We don't use Nestle water. Just a purified water from Sam's Club Walmart, but I'm sure Walmart is culpable too. It is best to look into every company to know how best to spend your money. Not pleasant or convenient, but true. While I believe fair trade will not even come close to solving the poverty problems in West Africa--fair trade chocolate mostly comes from the Dominican Republic and makes up less than 5% of world wide consumption--I do believe that consumers have power. Just look at the variety of foods we have available now without high fructose corn syrup or that are produced without pesticides. It takes time, but consumers wield power.