This week we are showcasing films shown at the 2012 Edible Institute (“EI”).

 

The Dark Side of Chocolate Title

“In your lifetime, you have eating something produced by child labor” – U Robert Romano

 

U Roberto Romano does not shy away from a challenge. On the contrary, he takes subjects that no one wants to talk about and makes them into story-telling art. This award-winning photographer and producer, was at the EI 2012 to show two films, both of which center on the grim issue of child labor. Romano is a champion for children’s rights and I feel so fortunate to have heard his passion in person.

The biggest tragedy surrounding child labor in other countries is that it isn’t news anymore. What does it say about humanity when we’ve almost come to expect that miniature hands from Indonesia, India and Cambodia sew our clothes? It is estimated that there are 215 million child laborers in the world and, just so you can understand the magnitude of this number, the entire population of the Untied States is 313 million people. This is an epic, worldwide issue that affects not only children abroad, but also American children in our own back yards.

 

 

The Dark Side of Chocolate

When it was announced that Romano would be showing a clip of his film, The Dark Side of Chocolate, I heard many around me comment that it sounded so depressing. Child labor is one of those things that we all know exists, but no one wants to think about when eating a decadent chocolate truffle or a Snicker’s Bar. The documentary investigates how child labor and human trafficking is a huge part of the worldwide chocolate industry. The Ivory Coast produces nearly half of the world’s cocoa and virtually every major chocolate company sources at least some of their chocolate from this region. Children from Mali and Ghana, as young as 7, get on a bus with the promise of work and money, and are driven to the cocoa plantations to live like slaves.

While certainly depressing, it is critical that we take notice of issues like this and take action. The Harkin-Engle Protocol was created to end “slave child labor” in the chocolate industry and ,of course, was fought vigorously by the chocolate industry. After a decade of fighting, has anything really changed? Watch Romano’s documentary to find out.

Watch the trailer now:

 

What you can do: To learn more about the issues surrounding child labor, visit The Stop Child Labor Coalition. Buy chocolate products that are certified fair trade. While fair trade is not perfect, this is your best bet for “slave free” chocolate and cocoa products right now. Example: Equal Exchange and Fair Trade USA. Others advocate purchasing chocolate not sourced from the Ivory Coast. Regardless, make a conscious choice next time you get a sweet tooth, oh, and go for the dark stuff with 70% cocoa to get the most health benefits.

 

  The Harvest/La Cosecha

Before watching an extended clip of The Harvest/La Cosecha, I had no idea that hundreds of thousands of children toil away on American farms in virtually every state across the country. They are not illegal laborers; these children are American citizens who work in the fields to help support their family.  While they pick cherries or carry onions, child migrant workers sacrifice their education and their childhood.

Romano, with the help of Executive Producer and celebrity, Eva Longoria, profiles the lives of three children as they work across the country. Migrant families travel great distances to get to the next harvest and are afforded none of the basic safety laws that we take for granted in our workplaces.  Agricultural environments can be extremely hazardous for anyone with the heavy machinery, dangerous chemicals, very heavy lifting, no sun protection, and extremely long work hours. But when you consider a 12 year-old child like Zulema Lopez in this setting, these hazards are incredibly amplified.

Watch the trailer now:

 

There is a scene in the movie where 15 year-old Victor Huapilla, comments that he is glad his sisters go to school because “in school they have air conditioning, they are fed, they get everything there.” Later, there is a scene of Huapilla pouring bleach on his hands as he tells the camera that it is the only thing that will remove the gunk that comes from picking tomatoes. This after he carried 1,500 lbs of tomatoes in buckets while explaining. “…I am not as strong as a grown man…it’s hard for me to keep up the pace.” I think we can all agree that this is not what children should be worrying about at 15.

One of the questions that came up in the Q&A session was how Romano gained access to the subjects in the film. Romano replied that it took time; all the people in the film were decent, hardworking people and that as long as he was straight with them, they were open. Romano reminded us that the child labor laws have not been updated in 40 years and that the current regulations exclude family farms. He then told us that Cargill is a family farm. Clearly new legislation is required.

What you can do: For more information on the issues profiled in the film, visit TheHarvestFilm.com. Romano supports H.R. 3564 – CARE Act  told us that all the farmers in the movie agreed that the CARE Act would be a good idea. If you want to support this bill, write to:

The Honorable Hilda L. Solis
Secretary
US Department of Labor
200 Constitution Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20210

 

Thank you U Roberto Romano for being such a strong voice for our children.

Fran Collin took the beautiful picture of Romano above. To see more of his work, visit www.work-for-food.com