What better way to learn about the legislative process than by trying to get the iconic Hershey’s Kiss named the official candy of Pennsylvania.
There isn’t much these days that generates bipartisan support in Harrisburg. But some high school students from Bucks County are trying to bring together lawmakers from both sides of the aisle through Pennsylvania-made chocolate. Specifically, the Hershey’s Kiss.
A group of freshmen at Council Rock North High School who call themselves the Hershey Kiss Committee is attempting to make Hershey’s Kisses the first official state candy of Pennsylvania. They’ve spent the school year lobbying lawmakers, meeting with executives from The Hershey Company, and drumming up support for their campaign on social media.
Earlier this month, they moved closer to achieving their goal when Senate Bill 1122—which would designate Hershey’s Kisses as the official State candy—passed the Senate State Government Committee by a vote of 10-1. A House version of the bill, House Bill 2150, was introduced in November and remains in the House State Government Committee.
State Sen. Maria Collett (D-Bucks) sponsored the Senate bill and was impressed with the committee members’ dedication to following through on a goal they believe strongly in.
“The Hershey Kiss Committee students not only conceived and researched this idea, but they met with Hershey executives, lobbied legislators, drafted bill language, and generated media attention to share their passion and ensure that the Hershey’s Kiss becomes our state candy,” Collet said. “I hope this experience encourages the students to stay involved because their voices are vital in the decision-making process, and I hope this bill is just the first of many that they choose to advocate for.”
The students’ idea to garner support for an official state candy was born out of a discussion in their history class about the legislative process. After batting around different ideas of candy to propose, they settled on the iconic Kiss and formed the Hershey Kiss Committee with the goal of making the group’s namesake the official state candy.
“When you think of Pennsylvania, you think of the Hershey’s Kiss,” said Emily Kennedy, who serves as president of the Hershey Kiss Committee. “When you think of any other candy or candy company, you don’t necessarily know where it’s made. The Kiss represents our state. It’s not the only candy made in Pennsylvania, but we feel it best represents the state.”
Rep. Tom Mehaffie (R-Dauphin), who introduced the House version of the bill, reached out to the Hershey Kiss Committee last fall after hearing about their campaign. While some of his colleagues might view designating an official state candy as a frivolous legislative exercise, Mehaffie believes it’s anything but, pointing to the importance of recognizing The Hershey Company’s statewide economic impact, particularly in his home district where Hershey is located, and 70 million Kisses are produced daily.
“If we have something worthy of promotion, why wouldn’t we want to do it?” Mehaffie said. “I’m lucky enough to represent ‘The Sweetest Place on Earth.’ I value all the chocolate makers we have in Pennsylvania, but none of them do what The Hershey Company, and the Hershey’s Kiss does. It’s a huge driver of the state economy. The Kiss is iconic. I absolutely believe as a General Assembly, we should act on it. There’s no reason not to.”
The students say their campaign is about more than just giving the foil wrapped, bite-sized chocolate The Hershey Company began producing in 1907 its due. It’s about letting their fellow high school students know that even though many of them aren’t old enough to vote yet, their voice still matters.
“We want our peers to realize they have a voice in our legislative process, whether it’s about our school system or animals or something else that they feel passionate about,” said committee vice president Kaitlyn Landers.
“A lot of us have realized that through this process that we do have a voice,” added Elaine Liaw, the committee’s treasurer and archivist. “We thought about politics as just something that adults talk about. But kids our age seeing how we’re doing something to make a difference in our community is very inspiring.”
Senate Bill 1122 now heads to the full Senate for a vote. If it passes both chambers, the bill will move on to the governor for a final signature before becoming law.