If you need a little extra comfort in your life in the midst of finals, I have good news: a new line of chocolate is available on campus. The bonus? It’s from a local business that’s making a huge impact in our community.
Last Tuesday the campus bookstore debuted Confections with Convictions’ chocolate bark and coated nuts. Dale Anderson, Kalamazoo native, started the chocolate shop four years ago to provide employment for previously convicted youth. As a counselor, he saw the lack of employment opportunities for these kids as an immense barrier to their growth as self-reliant adults.
Many kitchen experiments and a few culinary classes later and Anderson has a thriving chocolate business, currently employing five teenagers who have been through the court system in Kalamazoo. He shared a story about a young woman who hadn’t finished high school and was living at Kalamazoo Gospel Mission (a shelter that provides recovery services for people experiencing homelessness) when she started working at the shop. She has since completed her GED and is finishing school at KVCC this year.
Anderson is also conscious of the global impacts of his operation. Upon learning about the slave labor in the Ivory Coast and Ghana – where 70% of the world’s cocoa beans is grown – Anderson committed to 100% fair trade sourcing. “If I was helping kids in Kalamazoo at the expense of kids in Ghana,” Anderson said, “it isn’t really win win.” Confections with Convictions also uses resource-conservative packaging and purchases local ingredients whenever possible.
We can thank Ly Nguyen, K ’14 who volunteers at the chocolate shop, for bringing this delicious product to campus. “We wanted to have fair trade products but we didn’t know where to look or how to order,” Debbie Thomson, director of the bookstore said. In addition to connecting them with SERRVE, an organization that supports small-scale artisans and farmers around the world, Nguyen brought them samples of Anderson’s chocolate.
The bookstore now carries several flavors of bark – I tried dark chocolate with dried papya and pistachio – and ‘bites – assorted seasoned chocolate-coated nuts. Reasonably priced ($4 for 4 oz.), it makes a great gift to take home for the holidays. (I have to admit, my purchase was more of a self-indulgent pick-me-up.)
Stop by the shop (located less than 2 miles from campus at 116 W Crosstown Pkwy) and try one of 70 flavors of truffles – first one’s on Dale! Bring your student ID and receive a 5% discount through December.