I didn't know much about the intricacies of the confectionery industry when I first started as an intern for Candy Industry Magazine. Like many consumers, I'm sure, I thought, "It's sweet! Great." And that was as far as it went.
But ever since I've gotten myself more entangled in the world of candy, I've been repeatedly humbled and awed by the lengths to which this industry goes to create lasting social and global impact.
Whether it's companies like Barry Callebaut and Mars working tirelessly to create a sustainable cocoa industry or Endangered Species Chocolate partnering with and donating to environmental conservation groups, there's always evidence of the candy industry doing good for the world in which it thrives.
And now, the latest, Seattle Chocolate Co. celebrated a historic milestone in its fight against hunger in the United States, having donated more than one million servings of fresh food to communities across the country.
Seattle Chocolate Co.'s brand, jcoco, was launched with the intention to give back to local communities. Every retail store and online purchase of a jcoco bar helps deliver a serving of food to food banks with which the company has partnered, including Food Bank for New York City, Greater Boston Food Bank, San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, and Northwest Harvest in Seattle.
Not only do jcoco sales go toward donating fresh food, but the company also hosts an annual #chocolategives campaign during the holiday months to raise more awareness in a time when food bank demand is the greatest. The campaign extends fresh food donations to include purchases of the company's new Comfort & Joy truffle bar, and makes additional donations for each use of #chocolategives in social media during the holiday months.
That companies are doing this is a big deal.
According to the USDA, more than 48 million people lived in food-insecure households in 2014. Fourteen percent of U.S. households were food insecure at some point during 2014, and households with children saw a substantially higher rate of food insecurity (19.2 percent) than those without children (11.7 percent).
While the percentages may not seem terribly high, there's no denying the fact that millions of people across the country are still affected by food insecurity. When so many lack consistent access to the first thing on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, it's time to pay attention.
And Seattle Chocolate Co. is leading the way.
"When we created the jcoco brand, giving back to local American communities was – and still is – at the heart of the brand's mission," says Jean Thompson, owner and ceo of Seattle Chocolate Co.
And they're not stopping at one million. According to Thompson, they've already set their sights on reaching 10 million servings donated.
I believe that people are inherently good. I really do. And seeing the impact that companies and consumers can have on their communities is often awe-inspiring and humbling. What Seattle Chocolate Co. has done is an amazing first step.
And now, we can start to look outward as well.
In spite of the millions who experience food insecurity in the United States, it's still ranked number one globally in food security, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit's Global Food Security Index, which ranks countries based on food availability, affordability, and safety issues. With an overall score of 86.6, the United States far surpasses developing nations ranking in the bottom five with scores under 30.
Which only goes to show how much can be done to help make our world a better place. And of all industries, this one has shown that it can do, and has done, plenty to that effect.
To those who have been thinking of helping, there's no time like the present. And to those who are already taking steps to improve this world we live in, thank you for being amazing.