What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Thu, September 10, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Debbie Lehmann
Deborah Lehmann is an editor of School Lunch Talk, a blog about school food. She is currently studying economics and public policy at Brown University and joins us to weigh in on the breaking news that Senator Harkin has stepped down from chairing the Senate Ag Committee to chair the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee—news that Grist’s Tom Philpott calls “dismal.”
Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark), who is taking over as the chair of the Senate Ag Committee, has just introduced a new child nutrition bill. This one is called the Healthy Food for Healthy Schools Act of 2009, and its supposed to improve the purchase and processing of healthful commodities for use in school meal programs.”
The text requires the secretary of agriculture to issue model food product specifications and practices to schools, state agencies and processors to ensure that foods served in school meals are in line with the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The bill also requires the secretary to conduct a study on the quantity and quality of nutrition information available to schools regarding commodities and other food service products, and to submit a report to Congress with legislative recommendations. In addition, the bill requires the USDA to purchase the widest variety of healthful foods that reflect the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
As far as improving the commodity program, this legislation will help somewhat. Right now, most schools use their commodity dollars for meat and dairy products, and the USDA spends just a small percentage of its budget on fresh fruits and vegetables. Requiring the secretary of agriculture to make purchases that are in line with the Dietary Guidelines will ensure that he considers health, and not just farmers financial health, when he buys up foods for schools. That means cafeterias will probably get increased access to fresh produce through the USDA.
But improving commodity offerings isnt the end of the story. Upgrading facilities and equipment goes hand-in-hand with upgrading the nutritional content of food products. Faced with ill-equipped kitchens and high labor costs, cafeterias outsource about half of their commodities these days to manufacturers, who process their government chicken into nuggets and their government fruit into sherbet. The USDA can offer the most nutritious foods possible, but if schools dont have the means to cook those foods, processed fast-food fare will continue to dominate menus. Id like to see some legislation that funds the renovation of cafeteria kitchens, or that creates a School Lunch Corps to cook in schools nationwide. Paired with Lincolns bill, that would really revolutionize the commodity program.
Posted on Thu, September 10, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by youth programs intern Heather Teige
Students, as you transition back into a new school year and find yourselves thinking about exciting opportunities and events to organize on - campus, take a closer look at Food Not Lawns, The Beehive Design Collective, and Fair Food Across Borders.
Founded by Heather C. Flores, Food Not Lawns’ goal is to encourage and promote food sustainability by growing food in our own backyards. They focus on deepening community ties through gardening and offer advice on how to start a local Food Not Lawns chapter, as well as the how-tos of organizing a community seed swap.
The Beehive Design Collective is a grassroots collective that works by creating social discourse through images. Their belief is that images are a more accessible medium, and that they allow people-despite their social background- to better engage urgent social matters. On an international level they are most known for their graphic campaigns which address globalization and the global justice movement.
Fair Food Across Borders is a Chiapas Media Project (CMP)/Promedios advocacy campaign geared to expose human rights injustices inflicted on Mexican migrant workers by Mexican agribusiness camps. They aim to accomplish this by providing video equipment and training to marginalized indigenous populations in Southern Mexico so that they may create their own media.
Be sure to keep a lookout as all three of these initiatives will be touring this fall. Securing a visit to your campus would create a greater campus awareness of current issues, the opportunity to engage them in a creative manner, and the possibility of making great connections.
[images courtesy of Fair Food Across Borders (Rodrigo Cruz) and The Beehive Design Collective]
Posted on Tue, September 08, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA President, Josh Viertel
This post originally appeared on the Atlantic Monthly Food Channel, the day before the National Day of Action for the Time for Lunch campaign. Check out the Food Channel for Corby Kummer’s reflection on the first Eat-in, a year ago.
I was lucky to attend an Eat-In in Chicago, on August 26, organized by Slow Food Chicago‘s Lynn Peemoeller and her team. It rained all morning, and, as if by divine intervention, stopped about 20 minutes before the event kicked off.
A big, beautiful table sat in the middle of Daley Plaza, abounding with local peaches and plums. People from all over the city had come for the meal: young people from Growing Power, friends from Windy City Harvest, representatives from the Illinois Local and Organic Food and Farm Task Force, and state representative, soon-to-be senator Julie Hamos.
The whole staff of Angelic Organics showed up wearing cardboard hats with messages like “I grow my own tomatoes: Ask me how,” “I keep bees: Ask me how,” “I raise goats: Ask me how!”
And the Cornettes were there. They were my favorites. These advocates for urban agriculture made corn-ear costumes, salt and pepper shaker costumes, and a stick of butter costume. And their costumes were made out of cut up seed-bags for round-up ready, genetically modified corn. Good movements incorporate good theater. Just being right isn’t enough. No movement is worth being part of that doesn’t inspire creativity, art, a sense of humor to change the system. In Chicago, they were inspired.
On Labor Day, we are going to see this kind of creativity and dedication all over the country, in 300 locations, in every state as people gather for a Day of Action to kick off the Time for Lunch campaign. The campaign aims to update the National School Lunch Program (which expires in Sept. 2009) so that schools have the ability to serve food that benefits our children’s health, rather than the fast food and junk food that makes them sick. We’re telling Congress that it’s time to provide America’s children with real food: food that tastes good, is good for us, is good for the planet, and is good for the people who work to grow and prepare it.
You should come to one. They are easy to find. Just use this map or search by state. While you’re there, sign the Time for Lunch petition.
Posted on Mon, September 07, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Gordon Jenkins
This post originally appeared on The Atlantic Monthly Food Channel
On Labor Day, people in nearly 300 cities and towns across America will gather in public places, sit down, and share a meal together. We will do it for two reasons: one personal, one political. The personal reason is that we love to cook and share food. Nourishing people, making them smile and momentarily making life good is something that we find deeply satisfying—and at potlucks, we share this feeling en masse.
The political reason to organize potlucks is actually the same motive. Potlucks bring people together. And people who come together in the spirit of goodwill and for the joy of sharing food are more likely to stand together when political push comes to shove. If you’re an organizer, potlucks can be one of your best agents of change: rather than goad people to name enemies and point fingers, you can gather them for something that they enjoy doing and that replenishes their will to fight. Potlucks are a ripe opportunity for inviting people who may not have sat at the same table together in the past and then celebrating what we all have in common: the need to eat and the need for support.
On Labor Day, the tens of thousands of us who will sit down together in public parks, on school grounds, at churches, and in front of City Halls will do it for an overtly political purpose: to tell Congress to stop giving our children food that hurts them. We’re calling these events “Eat-Ins,” because they’re part potluck, part sit-in. They are a launching-point of the Time for Lunch campaign, the goals of which are to give schools the ability to serve real food at lunch and to link local schools to local farms. The Eat-Ins that take place on Labor Day will rally support for the cause by organizing communities, getting some media attention and thereby sending a clear message to Congress: It’s time to provide America’s children with food that benefits their health, not food that makes them sick.
My colleagues and I organized the first Eat-In a year ago in San Francisco. The event brought together more than 250 young people, most of them fresh out of college. The day before, we had formed teams and piled into apartment kitchens across the city to cook up our favorite dishes. On Labor Day, the final day of the Slow Food Nation extravaganza, we showed up at Dolores Park armed with our dishes. We sat down on a grassy hill and we took turns rousing nearby sunbathers with rallying cries about our intention to take back the American food system in the name of everyday people. And then we sat down to eat.
Posted on Thu, September 03, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by campaign intern Alex Tung
The Time For Lunch Campaign’s National Day of Action is only four days away! As Slow Food USA’s staff, volunteers and Eat-In organizers nationwide are busy making final preparations, I’d like to share our excitement by giving you a short preview of a few of the fine, innovative Eat-Ins that I’ve been following in my time here as a Regional Coordinator for the campaign. (As you’ll see, I’ve mostly worked with organizers in the West.)
Some Slow Food chapters have done a great job reaching out to their local school districts and working directly with city officials. Attendees at Slow Food Boulder, CO‘s Eat-In on the Boulder County Courthouse Lawn will hear stories from individuals who work hard to provide the food in Boulder’s schools. They include Boulder Valley School Districts School Food Projects member and parent Syliva Tawse, the Growe Foundations School Gardens program and the Parent Education Network and St. Vrain Valley School District‘s Director of Nutrition. The potluck-style picnic will be complemented by tasty food samples made with locally sourced ingredients by students of the Culinary School of the Rockies. There will even be fun activities for children and a bluegrass band!
Others have made headway by bringing together new groups of people. At the Eat-In in Salt Lake City, UT you can share a dish with Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon and Dave Everett from the Salt Lake City Mayor’s office, who will be at Slow Food Utah‘s Eat-In to show their support for giving kids real food at school. They will be joined by Primary Children’s Hospital Pediatric Dietitian Margaret Braae, and Valerie Hammel, who spearheaded the Open Classroom‘s “Real Food Lunch Program.” Volunteers at the family-friendly event will help kids plant seeds in little pots they can take home and watch grow. Children can also participate in fun games with local apples as prizes.
A few chapters have had to be creative about their location. To beat the heat, the Slow Food Phoenix’s Eat-In in Phoenix, AZ will be an indoor even—a “bring your own” picnic and a potluck dessert buffet at the Home Arts Building at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. Attendees can expect to see local chefs leading cooking demonstrations for kids, and interactive booths on topics ranging from “seed planting” to “a nutrition pyramid bean bag toss” and a “school garden complete with plants and bales of hay.” Strolling the event and entertaining kids and parents alike will be a trio of veggies and fruits to promote healthy eating.
In Portland, OR, real food and creativity will set the stage for “re-framing an abandoned lot as an urban grid of neighborhoods and gardens.” Teaming up with the the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art and their annual Time-Based Art Festival, Slow Food Portland will take over the lawn of the old Washington High School with a flurry of planting, harvesting, and cooking. At this sprawling picnic surrounded by temporary gardens, participants will be fed wood-fired flatbreads and joined by local food organizations.
Looking for an Eat-In near you? Visit the Time for Lunch website, here.
Posted on Thu, September 03, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
What the hay is an urban farmer?! Its a question both Farm City
author cum Oaklands Ghost Town Farm(er) Novella Carpenter and myself have wrestled with, and heck, had to come to terms with. Even while the word like locavore before it seems to have finally been uploaded to the American lexicon, the term still perplexes a great many, which only goes to show how much more work we have to do collectively to turn the tide in favor of sustainable cities and foodbelts.
I remember my own days in Rochester, NY as an urban farmer growing on school grounds and on borrowed backyard land across the city when Id be approached with the eternal question of what are you doin over there?! You can even imagine the looks of disbelief (and sometimes horror) when Id tell a handsome gentleman in a bar that I was a farmer. Theyd take one look at (cleaned-up) me and say You?!
Often times, when my kitchen floor was covered with dirt and produce awaiting delivery, my countertops lined with foul-smelling jars of moldy tomato pulp, and entire rows of Brussels sprouts thought to be collards were uprooted and sold on the street for crack money, Id stop and say to myself: I should keep a diary and turn this experience into a book. Well, Novella beat me to it. So you can only imagine my great interest in reading this book about a trailblazing young woman with more chutzpah than most dudes workin the land and raising livestock in one of Oakland, CAs less tasteful neighborhoods strewn with tumbleweaves (yes, discarded hair pieces that have become part of the landscape).
The book is organized not by the four seasons as one might expect of a farmers journal, but rather in three sections: Turkey, Rabbit, Pig. For each of three years on the farm detailed in the book, Novella Carpenter and beau gradually up the urban farming ante in the species that thrive on their squatted lot. At times there seems to be an inverse relationship to her level of sanity too hogs in the inner city? Yes, the book is complete with stories of dumpster diving in the alleys behind Berkeleys famed restaurants for pig feed and neighbors complaining of stench, and anxiety leading up to the eventual slaughter of the numerous residents of which she has become so fond. Novella is even a fan of Slow Food, and has taken to raising a few Ark of taste varieties of veggies and poultry.
Posted on Thu, September 03, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Time for Lunch Campaign Coordinator Gordon Jenkins
On Monday, Huntington, NY Supervisor Frank Petrone issued a proclamation on behalf of the Town Board declaring Labor Day, Sept. 7 Time for Lunch Day. The proclamation is a show of support for the Eat-In that Slow Food Huntington is organizing for the Time for Lunch campaigns National Day of Action on Sept. 7. On that day, people in communities across America are gathering for Eat-Ins (part potluck, part sit-in) that send a clear message to Congress: Its time to provide our children with real food at school.
With nearly 32 percent of children ages 2 to 19 considered overweight or obese, and with one in three children born since 2000 in jeopardy of developing diabetes in his or her lifetime, our schools should take the lead in teaching healthy eating habits and in providing students with healthy food, Supervisor Petrone said. We wholeheartedly support the goals of Slow Food USA and its local chapter, Slow Food Huntington, and ask residents to join them in their Community Eat-In.
Slow Food Huntington is partnering with the education organization Starflower Experiences on its Eat-In, which will take place on Monday from noon to 4:00 p.m. at Manor Farm Park. To learn more about the Eat-In, visit the Time for Lunch web site.
The photo above shows Laurie Farber, executive director, Starflower Experiences; Ann Rathkopf, co-leader, Slow Food Huntington; Supervisor Frank Petrone; Bhavani Jaroff, co-leader, Slow Food Huntington; Nicolas Maiarelli, Slow Food Huntington.
Posted on Wed, September 02, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Slow Food USA Ark of Taste (we list is as Speckled lettuce).]
by RAFT Grow-out Coordinator Anne Obelnicki
Isnt it funny the unexpected complications that sometimes arise when you start something new?
This is Chefs Collaboratives pilot year with the RAFT (Renewing Americas Food Traditions) Grow-Out project. Sixteen intriguing heirloom varieties of vegetables, all with historical ties to New England, were chosen and grown-out by farmers in our three pilot areas for local chefs to buy and celebrate on their menus. The first variety to come in, which weve had for a few months now, was Forellenschuss lettuce.
Forellenschuss is German for trout, self-enclosing, which refers to its speckled nature (like a trout) in this case green with rusty red speckles, and the type of head shape it has, which is romaine type. The lettuce was grown in both Holland and Austria in the 1600s, then it traveled through Germany (hence its nifty name), then Canada, to arrive in the US in the late 1700s. It has been grown in New England and around the U.S. ever since. It is routinely referred to as one of the tastiest and most popular backyard heirloom lettuces.
So whats this complication I alluded to, you might ask? Well, its those lovely speckles. In the age of generic romaine and iceberg, there are apparently a lot of folks who just cant wrap their minds around the idea that their lettuce is supposed to be speckled. They take one look at that lovely trout-like pattern and immediately call up associations with something they left in the back of the fridge for too long. Thats right; they think its rotten, or diseased.
Posted on Wed, September 02, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA intern Jocelynne Tan
The Child Nutrition Act is up for reauthorization this fall, which means Congress will be debating whether it can afford to provide kids with food that benefits their health. This is a worthwhile time to examine the lunch that Congress eats everyday.
In March 2007, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi began a Green the Capitol initiative, aiming not only to transform the nations legislative buildings into more environmentally friendly landmarks but also to overhaul the House of Representatives cafeterias. Her efforts have led to the House cafeterias making the switch to more organic, local, and healthy offerings at lunch time. Typical fare on offer includes salad bars, stir fry, taqueria, paninis, sushi, and in the restaurants, more gourmet items, such as roast beef with mushrooms and glazed rockfish. These dishes have not replaced old favorites like pizza, fries, or chicken fingers, but even the classics have been revamped so as not to include trans fats, and the entire menu is geared towards being fresh, local, and sustainable.
Similar efforts were made in the Senate in 2008 by Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was in charge of the committee that oversaw the funds that paid for the Senate cafeterias. Unlike the Senate eateries, which were, until recently, government-run, the House cafeterias have been privatized since the 1980s. Restaurant Associates of New York is the current House contractor and has been so efficient in catering to hungry House staffers that it has been able to turn an annual profit since 2003, with the most recent figure cited being $1.2 million. These profits are directed as commission to the House. For those who worry that taxpayers are footing the bill for these elite foods, Perry Plumart, deputy director of the Houses environmental effort, has been quoted as saying, The cafeterias are not subsidized In fact, we make money and Restaurant Associates makes money.
Posted on Tue, September 01, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Kate Krauss, director of development
Im new at Slow Food USA (well, relatively). And what with my new-job enthusiasm in full swing, Ive been telling everyone I know to join Slow Food USA. Some join, some flat arent interested, and still others skirt the issue. Not too long ago, I had dinner with a friend who admitted she didnt quite have $60 to give. Fair enough. Another friend explained that while she was really committed to buying organic and eating well, she wasnt exactly sure what we did. Hmmm. More troubling.
As the new membership and development director here, it pains me to think that our $60 membership fee is keeping people from joining. Particularly now, as we wade into the world of national food policy, we need to build a movement that is full of passionate people willing to fight for change whatever they can afford to give.
So: first of all, through the end of September, Slow Food USA is scrapping the $60 donation requirement, and offering membership with a donation in any amount. Click here to join.
And then theres the matter of my other friend, the one who doesnt know exactly what it is that we do. Again, it pains me to think that were not doing as good a job as we could at communicating who we are and what we do.
So what is it that Slow Food USA does? To begin with, we are cultivating local communities that support sustainable agriculture, and we do it through a growing network of over 200 chapters that bring together people who care about the food they eat with the people who grow and prepare it sustainably.
And now, with our Time for Lunch campaign, were also growing a food movement that can put pressure on decision-makers to change national food policies and practices to make it easier for everyone to eat healthy, tasty food. This summer, weve started with school lunch and the Child Nutrition Act. Ultimately, were going to help take on the Farm Bill.
If you have questions about how your money will be used, what youll get in return for joining us, or anything else, please let us know. Wed also love to learn what you enjoy about your membership, what you didnt get that you should have, and what you like and dont like about the work were doing so tell us!
I mean, if my closest friends dont get it (and they hear about it from me. Waaaaay too often), I imagine you have some questions, too.