Greeting fellow food readers and lovers,
I love foodie events! I especially love foodie events that are dedicated to a great cause and ethics, like The Great Seattle Vegan Chocolate Meltdown. I recently interviewed the super savvy and smart, Anika Lehde. She is co-owner of Yesler and Projectline Services and Volunteer Coordinator for the Washington Chapter of F.E.P, Food Empowerment Project.
Read my interview below to learn more about F.E.P:
1. What is the Food Empowerment Project? What is its mission to the community?
A: F.E.P.'s mission is to create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one’s food choices. One area of our work is educating people on labor in the chocolate industry, the limitations of standard "certifications" and how people can make sure their chocolate isn't sourced where the worst forms of child labor, including slave labor, are still present. If you have a smart phone, you can even get the free Chocolate List app with all the recommended chocolates (lots of awesome Seattle area companies thankfully). All of the chocolate on our recommended list and in our app has at least one vegan option and meets our sourcing requirements.
2. How did you get involved with F.E.P?
A: I saw the founder and Executive Director, Lauren Ornelas, speak at a few social justice and vegan conferences. I was so moved by the F.E.P. mission that addresses human rights, animal rights, and environmental justice, that I asked if they would consider piloting a chapter in Washington. It is rare to come across such consistent activism - they have a definition of justice that doesn't leave anyone behind.
3. What is The Great Seattle Vegan Chocolate Meltdown? How did it come alive?
A: The Washington Chapter (just a year old now) works to progress the mission of F.E.P. which means tons of education, outreach, and community building. We knew we needed to do something great around chocolate (we all love chocolate!) that could bring out difficult information in a way that is still fun and joyful. To show folks that being choosy about where you get your food and what you eat doesn't have to be hard, painful, or deprive you of tastes you love. We also need ways to raise funds to run F.E.P. programs, keep our app up to date, and all of the normal non-profit stuff, so a chocolate fundraiser seemed perfect. There are also so many great local chocolate companies in Seattle!
4. Why should the everyday consumer be concerned with ethics in food?
A: This is such a good question. Food is actually very powerful. Food is an area where massive injustices take place (think farm labor abuses, animal exploitation, etc), inequities exist in our society (food insecurity, lack of access to nutritious food), and also impacts our environment (water quality, pesticides, environmental racism, etc). You can look up many of these issues at www.foodispower.org. But it is so powerful because most folks eat at least three times a day, which means it is a very large place where our decisions make a difference (vs something we only do once a year or even less). As an example of the scale of food, you might find an injured dog on the side of the road, take her to the vet, make sure she finds a new home, etc. (which is awesome), but you might only do that once or twice in your lifetime. Where as if you eat animals, the average U.S. citizen will eat the equiv. about 25 land animals (cows, chickens, etc), 12 fish, and 100+ shellfish in just a single year so by going vegan, one can reduce the demand and killing by hundreds of animals in a lifetime. Or another example, you may do a beach clean up once a year with your family (again, very awesome), but by switching to organic produce (if you can afford it), you will decrease demand for chemically produced foods that poison the soil, water, and air, many times a week as you shop and eat. You'll eat thousands of pounds of produce in your lifetime. When it comes to chocolate, I think it is even more unjust, that something that should be a pleasure, that is a luxury, is not a necessity, has to come to us via such human rights abuses. The children who are working the cocoa fields don't even know what chocolate is, have never tasted it. Then we here in the U.S. gobble it up (9lb+/year each) without even considering how it got to us. We can do better. We don't have to give up chocolate, we can just ask that companies be transparent about source location and then only support those who do not source where child labor is present. If you readers are interested, here is a recent in depth article http://fortune.com/big-chocolate-child-labor/
5. What is your favorite Seattle chocolate you recommend?
A: Oh, this is SO HARD! Of course I love Theo and Franz, but I just recently tried a fancy raw truffle from Soulever Chocolates, which was so unique (www.souleverchocolates.com). Olive Oil Sage I think? I also recently tried the new ice cream from Frankie and Jos. Have you heard of it? Devine. Truly. https://frankieandjos.com
Thanks Anika for your words of wisdom,