What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Fri, February 27, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
This year, for the first time ever, the RAFT alliance (Renewing Americas Food Traditions) will be focusing on apples. Filling us in on their activities is our apple expert, author Ben Watson. Ben is chairing the Ark of Taste committee and helping Gary Nabhan and the RAFT alliances efforts to record, restore and renew disappearing heirloom apple varieties. On the docket are fruit tree grafting workshops, an heirloom apple experts summit, and education efforts such as a forgotten fruit manual/manifesto, and a series of posts for us here on the blog.
by Ben Watson
(Ben Watson is Chair of the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste Committee and an amateur nurseryman and fruit grower.)
Late February, western New Hampshire. Tonight snow comes down in heavy wet flakes, leaving a fresh white comforter several inches thick over the landscape. Yet those of us who live and garden in this place arent fooled by the weather. The sun, when it shines, is stronger now, the days longer, and the signs of spring are only a few weeks away. Soon enough sap will be rising in the sugar maples, small sugarhouses will open their louvered roofs, and white steam clouds billowing from the wood-fired evaporator pans will puff into the bright blue sky. Soon too the snowpack will retreat, and on the sunny, exposed edges of the lawn the first species crocus will emerge, tentative and yellow, followed by other early bulbs: snowdrop, squill, and grape-hyacinth.
Its a season pregnant with potentiality. We order seeds, clean and sharpen our tools. Like baseball players arriving at spring training, our outdoor ambitions for the growing season are a blank slate. Anything is possible as we enter this Lenten season weve no hits, no runs, no errors. And now is the time that apple growers are contemplating the orchard, though in truth we have never forgotten about it. The trees have stood silent, dormant, but were still eating some choice, long-keeping fruits from cold storage: Roxbury Russet, Mutsu, Northern Spy.
Posted on Thu, February 26, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
This week we have been focusing on the Farm to College efforts around the country. Today, we shift our focus to K-12, where what is served in the lunchroom is also a) up for grabs and b) vitally important. Been in a school cafeteria lately? If you have you’ve seen that it is dominated by junk food, and reheated calorie-laden, carb-o-rific meals. A horrible school lunch is a lost nutritional/health opportunity, and a lost educational opportunity.
Last week you may recall that Debra Eschmeyer wrote a letter to Michelle Obama, letting her know about the upcoming reauthorization of the Childhood Nutrition Act, and calling for her interest and participation (the Childhood Nutrition Act establishes the guidelines for school lunch among other things). In order to take advantage of this moment, today as we post this, the Community Food Security Coalition, the National Farm to School Network, and School Food FOCUS are holding briefings on the Hill—with both the House and the Senate—to make the case for “supporting policy solutions that restore the right of all children to access good food in school; that educate and inform communities about healthy food and its impact on the wellbeing of children; and that connect farmers, school districts, food service companies, and great ideas to the food system delivering school lunch.” To read their excellent CNR briefing, click here and stay tuned for outcomes and reporting back on their day on the Hill.
Also, make sure you read Alice Waters’ and Katrina Heron’s Op-Ed in last week’s NY Times, in which they call for a radical overhaul of the school lunch program, saying “without healthy food (and cooks and kitchens to prepare it), increased financing will only create a larger junk-food distribution system. We need to scrap the current system and start from scratch. Washington needs to give schools enough money to cook and serve unprocessed foods that are produced without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. When possible, these foods should be locally grown.”
Posted on Thu, February 26, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
This past weekend I, along with a Slow Food USA national office colleague and 300+ college students, ventured to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for the Northeast Real Food Summit, organized by the Real Food Challenge.
Whats the Real Food Challenge, you ask?
First, its a campaign that is seeking to make concrete and lasting change in university dining halls, with a target to redirect 20% of all food purchased by colleges and universities (currently 4 billion dollars) towards real food by 2020. Second, it is a network of students around the country that shares information and resources about how to achieve this goal, as well as the larger goals of reforming the food system at large.
Slow Food works closely with the Real Food Challenge and its student activists so when we were asked to present a workshop during the Summit, there was no hesitation. While we discussed Slow Food, focusing on Slow Food on Campus, the youth experience at Terra Madre and Slow Food Nation and the youth movement as a whole, students in other workshops learned about procuring local, organic, seasonal and sustainable food for their campus dining services. They heard about strategies for approaching university presidents and dining service directors, with an emphasis on universities’ and colleges’ present desire to improve their sustainability ratings.
The dining service providers that supplied our meals for the weekend pulled out all the stops to impress the collection of food activists and left no empty bellies. Overall, the weekend inspired conversations, connections, education, networking, and inspiration for all participants and left everyone with a renewed excitement for the youth movement.
To get involved in the Real Food Challenge (and find out information on the 4 other regional summits happening in the next few weeks), click here.
To read about efforts in sustainable dining on the University of Montana campus, read our post from a few days ago.
Posted on Wed, February 25, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA intern Gabrielle Redner
We may all be wondering what goes on inside the White House kitchen on a daily basis, but it is not every night that we get to peek inside. Yesterday, newspaper readers, blog addicts, and radio listeners across the country got a mouthwatering sneak-peak into the Obamas’ first state dinner, thanks to the slew of reporters invited into the kitchen by First Lady Michelle Obama. Here is the menu that is largely locally sourced (and built on American Relationships, in the words of Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford) for all you hungry and curious readers. Nota bene, the main course features a Slow Food USA Ark of Taste food, the Nantucket [Bay] Scallop!
Posted on Tue, February 24, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Are sustainable food advocates being punked?!
For more about this exciting news, read Steph Larsen’s comments on Ethicurean.
* n.b. no indication yet this will be an edible garden, but hey, suddenly we’re feeling like anything is possible.
Posted on Mon, February 23, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
All around the country, there is a revolution occurring in University Dining Halls. In some cases, universities and colleges are realizing the importance of sustainability/green initiatives in attracting students to their campuses; in other cases, these changes to a more sustainable and delicious food supply are happening as the result of student efforts. At the University of Montana, Dining Services is working with a local community-based food coalition. In today’s post, Lianna Bishop, a recent college grad and Terra Madre 2008 youth delegate writes to us from Missoula Montana about her role in helping the University’s dining services go local.
Greetings from Big Sky Country Missoula, Montana! After graduating from Marquette University in May of 2008, I continued on the next step of my journey in strengthening local food communities at the University of Montana. In July, I began work as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer working in conjunction with The University of Montana Dining Services and the nonprofit organization Grow Montana, a broad-based coalition that works to support policies that promote community based food production. The AmeriCorps VISTA program is specifically designed to fight poverty and address food insecurity issues. As the Farm to College Coordinator at the University of Montana, I join four other FoodCorps volunteers around the state to promote community economic development policies that improve citizen access, particularly in schools and universities, to local Montana foods.
Posted on Fri, February 20, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA intern Laura Kate Morris
March. It conjures up thoughts of melting snow, hatless days, and pigs? Yes, for all you porcine aficionados, March 1st is National Pig Day. Interested in hosting your own pig-tastic celebration? Here are a few tips for more background info and how to sustainably enjoy your pork
To learn a bit more about the many shapes and sizes of hog, check out the American Livestock Breed Conservancys listing of threatened breeds and Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, which profiles four endangered American varieties.
As with other livestock, the popularity of conventional pig breeds endanger the broad genetic diversity found in heritage animals. Conventional pigs put on weight fast, maximizing output (and profit) for large corporations in controlled (and usually inhumane) environments. On the other hand, heritage breed pigs, ignored by many big farms, are a nod to our agricultural history with a look and taste that is genetically closer to their piggy ancestors. Heritage breeds tend to be heartier, good foragers, and suited to their respective regions. Not to mention their fantastic names like Red Wattle and Ossabaw Island Hog. Its organizations like the ALBC, and some very dedicated farmers, that are helping these breeds to make a comeback.
One of the major problems for conservationists is that without a demand, the breeds will disappear (hence the title of this post.) Emerging connections with chefs and restaurants are helping to create a market for specialty breed pork products. To source one of the four Ark of Taste-listed breeds, read their profiles on the Slow Food website. Also check out LocalHarvest to find a farmer near you that raises the animals. This site should help you source the ham of your dreams.
Posted on Wed, February 18, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
New Amsterdam Market’s beautifully and carefully curated online auction has just gone live! If you live on the Northeastern seaboard (or if you would travel to there in order to, say, make charcuterie with Matthew Weingarten), please take a look. And then, make a bid.
This auction is worth your while not just because it supports the efforts to secure a covered, public setting to hold a monthly market in New York City, building a new community of purveyors, whose common goal is to pioneer environmentally and socially responsible food production, but also because of its emphasis on experiential learning. When was the last time you saw “You too can birth a lamb!” on an auction list?
[Also, if you are going to be in NYC this Saturday, you can attend their live, in-person fundraising event FOUNDED ON OYSTER SHELLS. For more information, and tickets, click here.)
Posted on Tue, February 17, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Have you been playing ostrich, head in the sand, hoping that your slow eating habits mean you are safe from all the peanut recall madness? Amazingly, it is a story that is not going away any time soon—and not just because peanuts and peanut products have a long shelf life. And not just because even companies like Clif (the, er, slowest bars you can find, if a bar can be considered slow) have recalled so-called “organic” products. The story is not going away, because as we all know, the story is bigger than just peanut butter. More so even than other recent food safety stories of late, this one has revealed major cracks in the system: the inherent hazards of food production on this scale, what happens when big greedy jerks ignore initial findings of illness, the too-big job that the FDA has, etc.Americans love peanut butter
: ever had a friend in the Peace Corps write to you begging for a care package…of peanut butter? or maybe you yourself headed off to the other side of the globe, happily ex-patting and exploring new tastes until one day you woke up with a insatiable longing for…peanut butter? For a quick article on the history of Americans and peanut butter, click here.Celebrity blogger
: It’s not what you think. Food safety lawyer Bill Marler is, as you can imagine, in great demand these days for his legal services, as well as his expert opinion on what went wrong and how. Check out his blog for an inch-by-inch account of the entire debacle.What’s been recalled
: For a complete list of recalled foods, click here.What it means for food banks
: As of February 3rd, reports that over 400 schools in California, Idaho and Minnesota had been sent peanut products.Inside the Congressional Food Safety Hearings
: Check out Obama Foodorama’s blogging about shadowing Bill Marler through the hearings, including positive feedback on food-friendly Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro. While you’re at it, check out DeLauro’s post on HuffPo.
Posted on Thu, February 12, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Debra Eschmeyer
As First Lady you have the ability to set the table for what our nations children eat by adding a plank of food justice to your platform. Many ideas have already been sent your way, including starting an organic garden on the White House lawn and appointing a First Farmer. But where should you start?
I request that you make the health of our nations children your platform priority. Especially with two growing girls to nurture and nourish, you must understand that we will only be successful as a nation when all children in our country are healthy and well-fed.
You have the support of the 44th President. The Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, was quoted yesterday in the Washington Post explaining President Obamas goals for the USDA, The vision is, he wants more nutritious food in schools. Vilsack went on to depict the role of local foods in that mission: In a perfect world, everything that was sold, everything that was purchased and consumed would be local, so the economy would receive the benefit of that.
You have a ripe opportunity to make great strides toward that vision with the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which is the federal legislation that establishes the guidelines for our nations school meal programs and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. Every four or five years, theres an opening for all of those concerned with the health of our nations children to evaluate, defend, and improve the federal Child Nutrition Programs. That time is now as the current Child Nutrition Act expires in September 2009.
With at least 35 to 40 percent of childrens daily eating occurring during the school day, a reformed cafeteria could improve the health and increase the capacity to learn for the 30 million children that eat at school 180 days per year.
When you invited Chef Sam Kass into the White House Kitchen, your spokeswoman said he happens to have a particular interest in healthy food and local food. Mr. Kass has spoken out previously on the need to change the school lunch menu by decreasing the high levels of sugar and fat. Hes right.