What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Thu, June 18, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA intern Melissa Rosenberg
While I recently savored some spicy, delicate watercress from the Park Slope Food Coop (PSFC), I was reminded how fortunate I am to have access to a wide array of local and affordable produce, an arms stretch away from my home. Centrally located in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, the PSFC is the largest, entirely member-owned and operated food store in the country.
In exchange for 2 hours and 45 minutes of work every four weeks, its more than 15,000 members obtain discounted prices for a wide variety of products, including local, organic and conventionally grown produce, pasture-raised and grass-fed meat and free-range, poultry. The coop exemplifies a self-sustaining alternative model to the commercial profit-oriented grocery store.
Since opening shop in 1973, the PSFC has supported local farmers in order to offer fresh, sustainable food to members of the Brooklyn community and beyond. The coop primarily sources its produce, poultry and meat from over 50 farms within 500 miles of Brooklyn. At the height of the regions growing season—fast approaching—the majority of the coops produce comes from small farms within 100 to 200 miles.
The tasty watercress I had been munching in my salads and sandwiches, was grown and supplied to the coop by Blue Heron Farm, nestled in the heart of the Finger Lakes. Owners, Robin Ostfeld and Lou Johns met in the spring of 1978 while working on a blueberry farm in Olympia, Washington. Thirteen years ago, they started Blue Heron Farm, which has been certified organic by NOFA. With two permanent hoop houses, four greenhouses, plus cooling and heating storage, housed in a two-story 1880s barn, the farm is well equipped to provide fresh produce throughout the entire year.
Allen Zimmerman, of the Park Slope Food Coop, tells us that this springs Blue Heron baby spinach leaves are so tender that “they feel like cotton candy.” The farms purple asparagus and red Boston lettuce are on sale now, and orange chard, dill and escarole are on the way. According to Robin, strawberries will take center stage for the rest of this month.
Posted on Thu, June 18, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Food, Inc. did so well in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, that it’s headed to 45 more theatres around the country, everywhere from Washington DC to Portland OR to Ft Lauderdale, FL.
It performed better at the box office this past weekend than all the other independent films in release (based on its per screen average). This is an amazing achievement for a documentary, and a good sign that the public is hungry for the real story of where their food comes from.
Head to the theatres this weekend! Tell your friends and neighbors (and then, you know, invite them over for a home cooked meal afterwards). Click here to see the expanded list of where the movie will be playing starting June 19th.
Posted on Wed, June 17, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
By Slow Food USA Biodiversity Intern Regina Fitzsimmons
You may already know about the project in Sonoma County to save the Sebastopol Gravenstein apple. But, in upcoming years, a new project is going to hit California farms and backyards.
When Elissa Rubin-Mahon, a member of Slow Food Sonoma County, heard rumored stories of Bodega Reds growing in her California neck of the woods, she didnt rest until she uncovered the full history. The Bodega Red, according to folklore, was brought by a Peruvian to Sonoma County where it grew near the coast in Bodega. Sonoma County was once the potato capital of Californiatheres even a California sandbar named after the Bodega Red and a lookout named Spud Point. But after some time, the Bodega Red started falling off the map. Genetically similar potatoes, like the Burbank, even died out. The Burbank became extinct because of potato blight and infestations of viruses. And, not helping matters, Elissa discovered that growers used to eat and sell the high quality potatoes, and plant the worst ones, thus propagating genetically weaker and weaker potatoes.
Elissa was especially intrigued by the Bodega Red because it was one of five or six potatoes introduced to the United States directly from the potato motherland: South America. Most potatoes sailed to Europe where they were grown and eaten and then sent to North America during the time of European colonization. Bodega Reds didnt make that extra boat ride. Like the Makah Ozette potato, they made their way all the way up the West Coast and into Alaska.
Posted on Tue, June 16, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA Interns Alex Tung and Leah Gorham
This week, the front line for getting better food into schools is Philadelphia.
After narrowly escaping the closure of its school breakfast and lunch program, which provides free meals to 120,000 low-income students without requiring their families to fill out unduly paperwork, Philadelphia has turned the tables: five Pennsylvania Congressmen are introducing bills in the House and Senate that would expand the city’s paperless program to the rest of the nation. Together, the Paperless Enrollment Act for School Meals of 2009 and Rep. Joe Sestak’s School Meal Enhancement Act of 2009 would give schools an alternative to the current application processing system and would make it easier for poor families to apply for free and reduced-price meals.
In a press release, Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, a co-sponsor of the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act of 2009, said, “Modernization of the school lunch program is one of my top priorities when the Senate reauthorizes the Child Nutrition Act later this fall…. The current system is inefficient and outdated.
Posted on Tue, June 16, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA intern Regina Fitzsimmons
Last week, Prince Philip dined on Cambridge Favourite strawberries to celebrate his 88th birthday. But he didnt eat just any strawberriesthese were picked fresh, from just outside the Palace doors.
The Queens new garden harks back to Britains 1939 Dig for Victory campaign and Eleanor Roosevelts 1943 Victory Garden. By setting an example of growing food, the White House and Palace encouraged families to start their own gardens and use all available land for produce productionfrom golf courses to the Tower of London moat!
Today Queen Elizabeth II and Michelle Obama are bringing fresh vegetables back to the White House and Palace lawns, encouraging local economic-growth as well as eating healthy foods.
The Queen is also encouraging the preservation of endangered foods by growing out some royal varieties: word has it that the French bean Blue Queen and the dwarf French bean Royal Red have already been planted in her garden. And there are more endangered varieties soon to go into the ground: the Northern Queen lettuce and the Golden Queen, the Queen of Hearts and the White Queen tomatoes! These heirlooms were provided by Garden Organic, the UKs leading organic growing charity organization.
We applaud the Queen’s attention to endangered varieties, and hope that our First Lady will take a cue from her by adding, say, some Ark of Taste varieties to the White House patch.
Check out this Daily Mail article to see a photograph of the Queens tomatoes, runner beans, and potatoes!
For a refresher about Michelle Obamas White House Gardens, visit our previous blog post.
Posted on Mon, June 15, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
50 states. 50 governors. 50 first families celebrating July 4 with locally sourced food.
Kitchen Gardeners International, with support from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) Food and Society Fellows, has launched Food Independence Day to educate and encourage consumers to source local and sustainable ingredients for their holiday meals and to request that their governors do the same.
Food Independence Day has posted a petition on Facebook and their Web site asking governors to Whet our appetites by publishing your planned menu in advance of the holiday. Share your recipes and the names of the local farmers, fisherfolk, and food producers whose ingredients youll be using.
Food Independence Day brings the spirit of the White House garden effort to a state by state, and even house by house level, said Roger Doiron, founder of the nonprofit Kitchen Gardeners International and current Fellow with the IATP Food and Society Fellows. We hope to foster enough interest and momentum that our 50 governors and their families will take note and enjoy their July 4 celebrations by feasting on local produce, meats, beverages and desserts from their own states or as nearby as possible. In doing so, we hope they set an example for and encourage their constituents to do the same.Ԡ
For more information and to sign to the petition, individuals can visit http://foodindependenceday.org .
Organizers will submit the petitions to governors the final week of June, in the days leading up to their July 4 holiday.
Posted on Fri, June 12, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
The South Central Farm operated from 1994 until 2006 on East 41st and South Alameda Streets in South Central, Los Angeles. The South Central Farmers, primarily poor immigrant families from Latin America, transformed a fourteen-acre plot slated for use as a garbage incinerator into 350 plots where they grew crops like corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, cactus and guava. Once considered the largest urban farm and community garden in the country, the garden enabled families to be less dependent on the food bank and provided a safe neighborhood haven.
After years of successful operation, in a devastating turn of events, the South Central Farm site was sold by Los Angeles city officials to private developer Ralph Horowitz to build a distribution center for Forever 21, a women’s clothing manufacturer and retailer. After weeks of community protest, the farm was forcibly shut down and, bulldozed at 5 am on June 13, 2006. The story of the South Central Farmers is told by Scott Hamilton Kennedy in his Academy Award nominated documentary film The Garden. Told there was nothing to be done, the filmmaker decided to chronicle this heartbreaking tale through its players: the farmers, the wheelers and dealers, the green power advocates and the moneymen.
This Saturday, on the third anniversary of the gardens demolition, the South Central Farmers and their supporters will reunite. The rally asks Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa to reconsider the use of this land, and subsidize the restoration of the farm with a portion of $137 million collected from developers for parks and green space. Especially in this current economic climate, preserving public gardening space and expanding accessibility nationwide is even more important than ever. This Saturday show your support for public green spaces in your local community by writing a letter (to local officials including city council members or parks bureau representatives), visiting parks, or buying food from local gardeners.
Posted on Wed, June 10, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Anne Obelnicki, Chefs Collaborative RAFT Grow-Out Coordinator
Like most Tuesdays, I was working from home yesterday. At lunchtime I took my two dogs out for a quick stroll around the three wooded acres where we live. When we approached my tiny patch of sunlit garden nestled among the trees, I was surprised to see something that definitely hadnt been there the day before: Five little Marfax bean seedlings had broken through their covering of compost, still bean-capped, leafless and bent over, they were nevertheless making their way towards the sun. Ive been gardening for years, and I love it, but I surprised even myself with the childish glee with which I observed the seedlings. There is a reason there are so many cliché sayings about planting seeds. I could suddenly see my whole bean-filled summer garden unfolding before my eyes, and I had equally vivid images of my bean-filled belly come harvest-time this fall!
All over New England, this little bean miracle is playing out on a much larger scale than in my tiny garden. Marfax beans are one of the sixteen varieties of heirloom vegetables weve asked twenty-eight farmers in the Providence, Portsmouth, and Boston areas to grow for the RAFT (Renewing Americas Food Traditions) Grow-Out project Chefs Collaborative is piloting this year. When their much larger fields of Marfax beans are mature, we have thirty-five chefs lined up, eager to buy, feature and promote them on their menus. At Chefs Collaborative, we hope that the community building were promoting during the Grow-Out establishes connections between farmers and chefs that grow beyond the bounds of the project. But community building will not be the only source of interesting connections to come out of this project; growing Marfax beans establishes a significant connection between all the participants and the rich agricultural history of New England.
Posted on Tue, June 09, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
There are a bunch of sustainable food documentaries that have been kicking around our circles for a few years now. Some of them are very good—enlightening, celebratory, inspiring, damning. But we all have probably wondered: who sees these but the proverbial choir?
Filmmaker Robert Kenner, along with producers Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, is making a go at hitting the big time,—i.e. lots of viewers, even ones outside the usual circles—with his movie “Food, Inc.” The movie, which opens in NYC San Fran and LA on June 12th, got some primetime coverage in the New York Times this past weekend. The Times article will help the word spread, but so can you. Go see the movie, and while you’re at it, go tell some others to see the movie.
Participant Media is a unique production company in that they release their movies as part of a social action campaign. Remember “An Inconvenient Truth?” This time around they are focusing on food issues of all shapes and sizes. The movie touches on many issues, including violations of farmworkers’ rights; aggressive litigiousness on the part of large agribusiness; food safety; the role of industrial organic; and some straight up weird stuff like an irradiated fat slurry that goes into most hamburger meat produced in this country. The main theme, as the title suggests, is what goes wrong when corporations control the food system.
Along with the movie they have released a companion book with the subtitle: “How Industrial Food is Making us Sicker, Fatter and Poorer—And What You Can Do About It.” It includes pieces by many of the faces in the movie, like Eric Schlosser, Gary Hirshberg (of Stonyfield Farm Organic), and farmer Joel Salatin, as well as a few people and organizations who did not have face time in the movie, such as Heifer International and United Farm Workers.
In addition, they are focusing on improving school lunch and the Child Nutrition Act’s Reauthorization—you can check out their “interactive cafeteria” and sign their school lunch petitionhere.
With movies like this, it’s important to head out the first few days they’re open, so run out this weekend and see “FOOD, Inc.” if you haven’t already.
Posted on Mon, June 08, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
A few weeks ago it was reported that the feds planned to discontinue Philadelphia’s universal lunch program. For some of us, this was news—all kids in public school in Philadelphia qualify for a free lunch? With no paperwork needing to be filed? Amazing! In many areas the families of children who should qualify never fill out the paper work, and hungry kids miss out. Apparently it started as a pilot program there 20 years ago, and never left.
Well, the good news reported on all of the school food blogs this morning is that the program is thankfully safe, for the time being. The USDA has wisely decided to wait until the Child Nutrition Act is reauthorized this fall before making a final decision. In the meantime, many are calling for “Universal Feeding” to be expanded, if anything, into a national program.
Some are doubting: a commenter on La Vida Locavore warned us “not to get too excited,” since “the motivation has less to do with feeding children healthy meals than it does their ability get more federal funds.” And a commenter on School Lunch Talk rightfully wondered “How does making the same drek universally free improve nutrition?”