What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Thu, June 12, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
This piece, from Huffington Post, got us thinking about the practice of gleaning. Apparently a food pantry director in New Hampshire, faced with a food shortage that has become commonplace in pantries this year, and an utter lack of anything fresh or green, has started to ask local farmers to plant a little extra to donate to her pantry.
Reminds us of the biblical injunctions of Leviticus and Deuteronomy that demand that landowners leave the edges of their fields for the poor:
"When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien."
Gleaning is a modern-day practice as well–some farmers supplement payment to their field workers by allowing them to glean the harvest, for example. Can you share with us some modern examples of gleaning? In the meantime, we're off to watch French New Wave director Agnes Varda's 2001 movie by that name….
Posted on Fri, June 06, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA staffer Patrick Keeler
If the recent Farm Bill controversy wasn't enough to roil us up, recent discussions via Tuft's COMFOOD listserv in regards to the Women Infant & Children (WIC) Program have gotten many food activists like me in a veritable tizzy. It was there brought to my attention that in Michigan, the WIC program brochure clearly states after each category of eligible foods and products: "No Organic Allowed." Don't believe me? You can view the document here, followed by a similar document from Florida. What is the rationale behind such exclusionary purchasing you may wonder?
A program of the USDA, the Feds set the maximum redeemable value of the vouchers, checks, or EBT cards. Vouchers used in stores are separate from the Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (and seniors farm-fresh FMNP) and other fresh produce initiatives. However, WIC is managed by state, and each is given discretion as to which brands, and which quantity, size and packaging are allowed to be purchased with said vouchers. By default, each state also determines whether or not organic is a category of foods made available to mothers and children in this federal assistance program.
From the perspective of a food justice advocate, leaving this choice to policy makers and not consumers is simply unethical—"organic, free-range, GMO- and hormone-free and wild-caught foods should be available to all!" reads the manifesto.
Yet again, however, there exists an economic argument for the "no organic" rule—we know legislators think so. If we assume that organic products receive a price premium of an ~ 30% price markup compared to conventional products, the argument follows that for every 3.33 mothers opting for organic with their vouchers, one family goes without any vouchers at all, being denied entry into the program. This is because the $ budgeted to WIC is set by the Feds once a year, not on an as-needed basis.
This is faulty rationalization, however. WIC vouchers are not currently assigned a dollar value—for now anyway, but I'll come back to that—they are quantitatively valued: ounces and pounds are specified, not a price cap for the products being purchased. The resources that fuel the WIC program have to come from somewhere (tax payers), but who is it that has the right to rule that WIC recipients do not have the option—insert basic right—to eat as much organic food as possible? But, each time "choice" enters the so-called free market equation in this context, I am reminded that it is food industry lobbyists who really control how wide-reaching the WIC program is, what the nutritional standards are and, at the state levels, which companies make the designated brand lists. We're not supposed to have a choice.
In 2009 we will most likely see a return to the economic argument vs. right to choose organic debate, because, for the first time in 30 years the WIC program is undergoing significant alteration. Remember that currently, WIC check vouchers are not assigned monetary value, they are simply exchanged for quantities of product. Next year new vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables will have a cash value—a landmark move that will surely beget critics and supporters. Hitherto to this expected change, only very limited amounts of fresh produce was listed on the allowables lists (for example, 2 lbs of carrots, non-organic). Fruits and veggies were available mainly through the FMNP, and access to farm markets in many low-income neighborhoods is typically harder to find than a decent grocery store. So this is a good thing on paper if choice is permitted by the consumer.
It still remains that wherther mothers can exercise choice in purchasing organic will still lie in the hands of state WIC agencies. We'll see whether the "if 3.33 women purchase organic at a premium, then another family goes without" argument resurfaces.
Exercise your democratic right by voicing your opinions on the interim ruling. The USDA will be taking comments on the 2009 Reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Programs, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the WIC Farmers' Market Nutrition Program through October 15, 2008. Follow this link to The Federal Register with info on how to comment.
In addition, the FNS will be holding listening sessions around the country starting June 10. More information and the times and locations of the listening sessions are posted here.
Also, a wonderful group named The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) has a deeply informative website that delves into the future and current state of the WIC program.
Posted on Thu, June 05, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Here in New York City we've finally made the annual swift jump from late winter straight to summer. (We have heard there is a season called spring; here it is merely the name of a street). That being said, summer is a glorious thing, full of long-awaited produce, and outdoor fun–like picnics.
Last summer, Slow Food USA partnered with several other farms and local food organizations around the country to produce five American Traditions picnics, and we've now got instructions on our website for how you and your food community can plan one for this summer.
"Aren't all picnics an American Tradition?" you might ask. Well, these picnics celebrate endangered foods–such as those found on the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste. Given the arrival of the Renewing America's Fod Traditions Endangered Foods book, and our new partnership with LocalHarvest (both reported on here, last month), now is a perfect time to plan one of your own.
How do you plan an American Traditions Picnic?
Producing a meal or dish with endangered ingredients has great rewards—the ingredients are extraordinary in flavor, color, smell, feel and taste. Before the fork hits the plate though, many things must happen—farmers need to be consulted, the rare fruit or vegetable may need to be planted, and orders for rare, regional beef, pork, or poultry need to be placed. There (usually) isn't a one-stop shopping destination for endangered foods. So just how do you produce an event with endangered foods?
Check out our website for ideas and directions!
Posted on Wed, June 04, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Tickets for Slow Food Nation go on sale today! After a long lead up and lots of buzzing excitement, it's finally here. For those of you who haven't yet heard the news, Slow Food Nation will be the first-ever American collaborative gathering to unite the growing sustainable food movement and introduce thousands of people to food that is good, clean and fair through enjoyable, accessible and educational activities.
It will take place Labor Day weekend in San Francisco, and you are encouraged to come from near and far to check it out. What is more beautiful (and delicious) than San Fran in late August?
The new website is here.
Today's coverage in the SF Chronicle is here.
The press release follows:
For Immediate Release
SLOW FOOD NATION TO TAKE PLACE IN SAN FRANCISCO LABOR DAY WEEKEND 2008
Largest Celebration of American Food in History
On Eve of the Presidential Election, Gathering Sets New Agenda for a
Sustainable and Healthy Food System
Keynote Speakers Include Wendell Berry, Marion Nestle, Carlo Petrini, Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Vandana Shiva and Alice Waters
San Francisco, CA (June 4, 2008) — Slow Food Nation, the largest celebration of American food in history, will take place in San Francisco over Labor Day weekend (August 29 to September 1, 2008). An unprecedented event, Slow Food Nation will bring together tens of thousands to experience an extraordinary range of activities highlighting the connection between plate and planet. The majority of Slow Food Nation's events will be free and open to the public; certain events are ticketed. Tickets go on sale Wednesday, June 4 at http://www.slowfoodnation.org .
At the peak of harvest season, and on the eve of a Presidential election, Slow Food Nation will bring together local citizens and visitors, farmers and food artisans, political leaders, environmental advocates and health-care experts, community educators and artists. Participants will savor food from across the U.S. at Taste, a 50,000 square foot pavilion; meet farmers and producers at a marketplace surrounding a 10,000 square foot newly-planted urban garden in the heart of the City; learn from visionary speakers; and engage in political discourse to shape a more sustainable food system. Slow Food Nation will also feature a music festival, workshops, films, dinners, hikes and journeys.
"Slow Food Nation will catalyze a huge shift in how Americans perceive and prioritize food. Through the four-day event, we hope to build momentum and demand for an American food system that is safer, healthier and more socially just," said Anya Fernald, Executive Director of Slow Food Nation. "Our founder Alice Waters has set the stage for a delicious revolution through decades of leadership and advocacy and our parent organization, Slow Food U.S.A., has built a wide membership base across America. By creating a framework for a deeper environmental and community-based connection to our food and farmers, Slow Food Nation will help participants learn how everyday choices affect our well-being, our culture and the health of the planet."
Highlights of the four-day event include:
Saturday, August 30; 11 am – 3 pm; 5 pm – 9 pm
Sunday, August 31, 11 am – 3 pm; 6 pm – 9 pm
Fort Mason/Festival Pavilion
Tickets: $45 – $65
Taste is Slow Food Nation's grand celebration of good, clean and fair food from across the United States. In-depth taste workshops and hands-on experiences with quality, process and distinguishing flavor factors will connect visitors with the origins and true value of our food. Each of the 15 uniquely designed pavilions showcases a different food through on-site demonstrations and tastes. Featured foods include: Beer, Bread, Charcuterie, Cheese, Chocolate, Coffee, Fish, Honey & Preserves, Ice Cream, Native Foods, Olive Oil, Pickles & Chutney, Spirits, Tea and Wine. The Green Kitchen takes place here, where acclaimed chefs will demonstrate techniques for making simple, everyday dishes sustainable.
Food for Thought Speaker Series
Friday, August 29, 9 am – 4:30 pm and Saturday, August 30, 11:30 am – 10 pm
Civic Center/Herbst Theater and Milton Marks Auditorium
Tickets: $5 - $25
Featuring leading thinkers, community organizers, journalists and activists discussing current food issues, from policy and planning to education and climate change. Speakers include: Wendell Berry, Marion Nestle, Carlo Petrini, Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Vandana Shiva and Alice Waters.
Friday, August 29 - Sunday, August 31; 9 am – 4 pm
Civic Center Plaza
The Market showcases 60 California farmers and artisans growing and producing good, clean and fair food. Visitors can purchase directly from the producer and learn the significance of regionality, diversity and artisanality in the Bay Area's food system. Next to the Market, "Slow on the Go" demonstrates how "fast" slow food can be. Visitors can purchase affordable street food from San Francisco's diverse ethnic community, prepared with fully sustainable, source-verified ingredients.
Slow Food Nation Victory Garden
Friday, August 29 – Sunday, August 31; 9 am – 4 pm
Civic Center Plaza
In collaboration with Victory Gardens 2008+, Slow Food Nation will herald the era of self-sufficiency through the creation of an ornamental edible garden in the heart of San Francisco's Civic Center. Planted on the same site as 60 years ago during World War II, the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden demonstrates the potential of a truly local agriculture practice and brings together and promotes Bay Area urban gardening organizations, while producing high quality food for those in need. The Slow Food Nation Victory Garden will be introduced to the public on Saturday, July 12 in a ceremony with Mayor Gavin Newsom and Slow Food Nation Founder Alice Waters.
Slow Food Rocks
Saturday, August 30; 11 am – 7 pm and Sunday, August 31; 11 am – 5:30 pm
Fort Mason/Great Meadow
For tickets visit: http://www.slowfoodrocks.com <http://www.slowfoodrocks.com/> ; Tickets on sale June 10
Featuring: Gnarls Barkley; G Love & Special Sauce; the John Butler Trio; Medeski Martin & Wood; New Pornographers and Ozomatli. Additional major headliners to be announced soon. A two-day outdoor music festival featuring the biggest names in rock, folk, hip-hop, soul, jazz and world music. Produced by the Festival Network, this is one of only three public events permitted on the Great Meadow the entire year.
Petition Launch for a New Vision for Agriculture and Food Policy for the 21st Century
Thursday, August 28; 4 – 5 pm
Civic Center/Slow Food Nation Victory Garden
Hosted in conjunction with Roots of Change (ROC), Slow Food Nation will introduce a Vision Statement for Agricultural and Food Policy for the 21st Century drafted by notable activists, practitioners, producers and eaters across the country. The Vision Statement will be a call to action to frame future food and agricultural policies, including the next Farm Bill, to benefit all Americans.
Posted on Mon, June 02, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
"Amazingly, there is very little attention being paid to what fundamentally underpins all of our food systems - biodiversity and the services provided by ecosystems, such as soil, water and resilience to disasters." - Gonzalo Oviedo
As the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization convenes this week to discuss food security and rising food prices around the globe, small farmers slam the UN's "empty policies," and a senior adviser on social policy Gonzalo Oviedo argues for the essential role of biodiversity in securing our food supply and the health of our ecosystems.
6/4 Update: Summit convenes today, and the Times of London has an overview of what has transpired.