Nearly 20 girls in Troop 61176, most from Graham Middle School, participated in a program called Reverse Trick-Or-Treating, which seeks to educate the public about fair trade in the cocoa industry.
Global Exchange, the membership-based human rights group sponsoring the program, distributed kits of fair trade chocolate for free, along with info cards about human rights violations in the cocoa industry, to participating groups. They encouraged trick-or-treaters to give the candies and cards to houses they visited Halloween night to promote awareness about their cause.
"Fair trade" describes a political movement intent on helping growers in developing countries obtain fair prices for their products, especially when those products are grown through sustainable means.
"I presented the situation with fair trade," said troop co-leader Page McDonald. "I explained what was happening in places like Sierra Leone, where kids the same age as Girl Scouts are being mistreated."
"I think it touched a nerve with some of the girls," she said, adding that the scouts voted unanimously to take on the project this Halloween.
"When I first heard about fair trade I thought it was a great idea to give back and spread awareness," said Carly Miller, 12, a seventh grader at Graham, who dressed as lifeguard who couldn't swim.
"I had no idea how people were being treated," said Elyse Fitzsimons, another Graham seventh grader, who is just shy of 13 and dressed in masquerade garb. "I was like, 'Oh chocolate, I love chocolate.'"
The girls distributed 150 candies and info cards last weekend, and said they received mixed reactions from the houses they visited.
"People were friendly," Miller said. "Some people thought we were selling it (even though) we weren't. And some people kind of ignored us. There were definitely some people who seemed interested and wanted to look it up."
"I had one guy actually acknowledge what we were doing," Fitzsimons said. "It was a good feeling because we made a difference."
Of course, most of the chocolate given out on Halloween isn't fair trade, putting some of the girls — who still hoped to collect candy while trick-or-treating — in a "tricky" spot, Miller said.
"We grew up on candy and it's just now we found out that they're not treating people nicely," she said. She hoped that next year more fair trade chocolate will be offered to trick-or-treaters.
Adrienne Fitch-Frankel, a campaign manager for Global Exchange who helped launch the Reverse Trick-Or-Treating project two years ago, said the group distributed more than 260,000 pieces of fair trade chocolate and information cards this year. The demand was so great, she said, that they ran out of kits several weeks before the holiday.
As a result of the Scouts' efforts, Halloween "turns from being a gimme-gimme holiday into a holiday that's rich, because they're giving back to their neighbors," Fitch-Frankel said.