In Chocolate We Trust takes readers inside modern-day Hershey, Pennsylvania, headquarters of the iconic Hershey brand. A destination for chocolate enthusiasts since the early 1900s, Hershey has transformed from a model industrial town into a multifaceted suburbia powered by philanthropy. At its heart lies the Milton Hershey School Trust, a charitable trust with a mandate to serve "social orphans" and a $12 billion endowment amassed from Hershey Company profits. The trust is a longstanding source of pride for people who call Hershey home and revere its benevolent capitalist founder—but in recent years it has become a subject of controversy and intrigue.
Using interviews, participant observation, and archival research, anthropologist Peter Kurie returns to his hometown to examine the legacy of the Hershey Trust among local residents, company employees, and alumni of the K-12 Milton Hershey School. He arrives just as a scandal erupts that raises questions about the outsized power of the private trust over public life. Kurie draws on diverse voices across the community to show how philanthropy stirs passions and interests well beyond intended beneficiaries. In Chocolate We Trust reveals the cultural significance of Hershey as a forerunner to socially conscious corporations and the cult of the entrepreneur-philanthropist. The Hershey story encapsulates the dreams and wishes of today's consumer-citizens: the dream of becoming personally successful, and the wish that the most affluent among us will serve the common good.