What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Tue, November 17, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Emily Stephenson
This morning the Senate Agriculture committee met to discuss Child Nutrition reauthorization. Yesterdays USDA announcement about food insecurity in the US set the tone for the hearing. But as Blanche Lincoln herself said, the meals provided must not just fill bellies. Very promising sentiments from a woman who not only has a lot of sway in this issue, but also had previously only focused on addressing hunger. The hearing also discussed in great length the connection between hunger and obesity. They tied the issue of obesity and poor health to everything from impaired learning to national security. Looks like they really do see this as an important issue!
In fact, every one of our asks was addressed. Funding, obviously, was a big part. And while no specific figures were thrown out (other than Senator Gillibrands $.70 increase), USDA Secretary Tom Vilsak really drove the point home when he emphatically stated: you have to fund your priorities. This is a priority. And everyone seemed to be in agreement that vending machines and a la carte items must be regulated as well, specifically falling under the USDAs jurisdiction. Finally, while only Vilsak and Harkin mentioned Farm to School, all members of the committee agreed that facilities must be remodeled to accommodate cooking real food (Debbie Stabenows words) and nutritional education had to be brought up to snuffall components of Farm to School.
The hearing was very promising, you can watch it on the Ag Committees site, where you can find it under todays date (Nov. 17).
Posted on Tue, November 17, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Leslie Hatfield, originally posted on The Green Fork
In one Brooklyn community, neighborhood residents are fighting to keep their farm. Bed-Stuy Farm, once a neighborhood garbage dump, was transformed into an urban oasis that produces over 7,000 lbs of fresh food every year, helping feed more than 4,000 people a month through the Brooklyn Rescue Mission.
The Farm is a source of community pride that has inspired neighborhood greening, backyard food gardening and food pantry agriculture projects. It is a constant reminder to residents that better nutrition and healthy eating are within our grasp. Now, though, the project is threatened by development.
Check out the post Kerry Trueman wrote about it back in August to learn more and help save the Bed-Stuy Farm by signing this petition.
Posted on Mon, November 16, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by SFUSA President, Josh Viertel
Jonathan Safran Foer and I hold nearly the same beliefs about eating meat. That said, I have a freezer full of goat necks, marrow bones, and pork belly, and he decidedly does not. You see, I eat meat and Jonathan doesn’t.
There is a simple and true notion underlying Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals: people should eat according to their values. Foer’s argument basically goes like this: Everyone has values. Apply your values to the choices you make about food. Sure, everyone’s values are different, but the truth is anyone’s values will do. The problems with food and farming—in particular farming and eating meat—aren’t caused by people holding the wrong values; they are caused by people not applying the values they hold. I agree with him.
[to read the rest of this article, please go to the Huffington Post, where it was first posted]
Posted on Mon, November 16, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Catherine King
I am constantly curious about what other people are eating. After friends return from traveling, I want to hear about their favorite meal of the trip. If I call my mom at dinnertime, I want to know what shes cooking. When I ran into a good friend shortly after she crossed the finish-line of the New York Marathon, I couldnt resist asking for details on her pre-race meal, even as she stood doubled-over nursing a cramp. My friends and co-workers know that any mention of an interesting meal could illicit a number of follow-up questions from my end. I just cant help myself When it comes to food, I have a curious mind.
So when I came across Mark Kurlanskys The Food of a Younger Land, based on the food traditions of the America my grandmothers grew up in, I felt I was the perfect audience. The collection of essays aims to be a portrait of American eating before our highways, chain restaurants and industrial farming made many of our dining habits homogeneous. And while I would disagree with Kurlanskys perspective that our food traditions have all but disappeared, I wont dispute the point that regional food is now something to be sought out; often buried under generic strip malls filled with Panera Bread, Chilis and Chipotle. The many traditions that make up American eating have unquestionably evolved, and The Food of a Younger Land is an interesting reflection on where weve been.
Following his earlier food explorations, Salt and Cod, Kurlanskys newest came together by chance. While doing research on another book, he stumbled across hundreds of unpublished essays by the Federal Writers Project (FWP), a depression-era employment agency created by the Works Progress Administration. The essays were meant to be published as a collective guide to regional American food, America Eats. But just as writers were sending in finished (or unfinished) pieces in December 1941, bombs rained on Pearl Harbor and the country went to war. Funding for the FWP dried up and the project dissolved before the America Eats essays could be edited or published.
Posted on Fri, November 13, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Jessica Weiland
With the help of online social networks, our countrys young adults seem to be mobilizing. Were Fed Up is one of these networks and a highly effective venue for honest communication concerning one touchy topic: obesity. The group was created by 40 youth leaders from South Los Angeles and Baldwin Park. These students have partnered up with the Department of Public Health in LA County, The California Center for Public Health Advocacy, and The Accelerated School in South Los Angeles to create positive environment within their communities to encourage fitness, promote healthy eating choices, and combat obesity. The Were Fed Up Network now has 438 members.
Their website has a section that provides resources for proper nutrition information, fast food facts, and physical activity. It also has information for youth groups about how to empower others. The students provide links that touch on how to mobilize your community or how to attract media attention to further your cause. Another tab connects you to Food Art, Youth In Action, and several other like-minded groups. There is a section that links you to related video or photo content ranging from a Were fed up trailer to an image of a glaring neon sign advertising chocolate covered bacon.
They have two interactive communication components on their webpagea forum and a blog (both are maintained by the groups founding youth leaders). The forum addresses topics ranging from celebrities, fitness, and finding healthy role models, to releases of obesity related documentaries. The blog posts, open and informal, have similar content: news of a Senate hearing exploring the link between sugar-sweetened drinks and obesity, a call for any exercise related research paper ideas, and a smattering of healthy recipes. One teen proudly exclaims how she just joined a gym and loves it! while another urges people to think before they down a bag of potato chips.
But a small note while digging through the Were Fed Up blog archives, I was surprised by the absence of entries that discussed healthier school lunches. Perhaps theyve written off school lunch as another unhealthy option. Still, Americas high school students are important stakeholders in the 2010 Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization and it is important that school lunch be part of their conversation. Were Fed Up has demonstrated that they are leaders in initiating an honest, constructive discussion about their health. Now they need leaders to engage youth networks in school lunch reform.
Posted on Thu, November 12, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Alaine Janosy
UPDATE (GOOD NEWS): the FDA has postponed the policy change in order to do more research on feasibility etc. Click here to read their press release.
In 1941, M.F.K. Fisher asked us to consider the oyster in her gastronomical classic and that is just what I have been doing for the past few days. This little mollusk has been dominating headlines due to the proposed Food and Drug Administration (FDA) post-harvest processing requirement for Gulf Coast oysters, set to take effect during the 2011 harvesting season. If this requirement goes into affect, no one will be able to sell or eat raw oysters from the Gulf Coast between April and October every year. This move by the FDA is meant to reduce the number of people sickened by Vibrio vulnificus (Vv) bacteria, which is a naturally occurring bacterium found in all coastal waters.
Vv bacterial infection can occur from consuming raw oysters, clams or mussels but the majority of people infected each year are actually infected by exposing an open wound or sore to seawater that contains the bacteria. The bacteria primarily causes serious illness only in people with weak immune systems or certain health or medical conditions; healthy people are rarely sickened by bacterial exposure. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) considers Vv a rare foodborne disease, which makes sense considering that of the FDAs estimated 76 million cases of foodborne illness annually, 5,000 result in death, and of those only 15 deaths are attributed to Vv bacteria. Thats 0.3% of deaths annually. Considering that five other bacteria, including Salmonella and Listeria, account for over 90% of estimated food-related deaths annually, it is surprising that the FDA would propose implementation of such rigorous regulations over an industry that contributes so insignificantly to foodborne illness on the whole in the United States, and already has mechanisms in place to develop and maintain oyster sanitation rules.
Speaking with Sal Sunseri, owner of P & J Oyster Company of New Orleans, which is the oldest continually operating dealer of oysters in the United States, I was able to get a better sense of how this change in FDA policy would affect the Gulf Coast oyster industry. He told me there are only so many #1s in Louisiana and oysters are one of them, with the Gulf Coast accounting for 66 percent of oyster harvests nationwide. This vital industry accounts for $318 million a year of Louisiana revenue and 3,565 Louisiana residents are employed by the industry. He sees this unjustified and unprecedented move by the FDA as stemming, at least in part, from continual pressure on the FDA from the Center for Science in the Public Interest to establish a regulation requiring oysters harvested from Gulf Coast waters to have non-detectable levels of Vv. Since Vv is naturally present in coastal areas, and in the oysters that live there, the only way to meet this regulation is through post-harvest processing (PHP).
Posted on Tue, November 10, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Daniel Lewis
The Young Readers Edition of Michael Pollans bestselling exposé, The Omnivores Dilemma, is a lot like the original. Both books contain most of the same information, but the way in which this information is presented changes the book radically. The main difference is that the writing style (and I wont say it has been dumbed-down) in the Young Readers Edition is a lot more blunt about Pollans ideas. The whole thing only took a few hours to read, whereas the original took a couple of weeks.
Dozens of pictures, graphs, charts, and side notes with cute names like Youre eating what? strategically placed throughout the book comprise the second change, and these make a big difference. It was worth reading the book just for the pictures; they dont overwhelm the book, but they helped me visualize the scenes Pollan describes as he describes them. Theres a picture of Steer 534, the calf Pollan bought and tried to follow to Poky Feeders (spoiler alert: hes not as adorable as I imagined he was) and an advertisement from the Corn Refiners Association, for instance.
To parallel Pollans style, this book begs an unavoidable question: Is it better? Better for what?Being the all important corollary here, I will say I think this book is better for a lot of people, and not just young readers. If youre between the ages of 10 and 15, youll definitely find the book easy to digest (pardon the pun), but its also a great choice for more mature readers who dont have a lot of extra time or just want a fast read..
However, if youre able to read and enjoy The Omnivores Dilemma, its Young Readers Edition quickly begins to feel like fast food. It doesnt have the philosophical depth, subtleties in language, and vivid descriptions of the adult version, which will leave the reader burning to get to the nearest farmers market. It has the macronutrients but not the flavonoids and anti-oxidants. Nevertheless, if you want to teach your middle school aged child much more about where her food comes from, this is the best way to do it. If she doesnt like it, theres always Food Inc.
A lover of food among other things, Daniel Lewis spends much of his free time cooking and reading cookbooks or articles about agriculture. He is 17, and lives in Saratoga, CA.
Posted on Mon, November 09, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Becca Stanger
On April 6, 2009 a violent earthquake of 6.3 magnitude shook the very foundations of Italy’s Abruzzo region. When the dust had settled, the damage amounted to over 220 deaths, 1500 injuries, and 25,000 homeless survivors. In the wake of the disaster, numerous concerned community organizations, like The Italian Red Cross, The New York Police Department, The Italian-American Museum, and many more, organized relief efforts for the devastated region. In addition, the U.S. Department of State and the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) entered into a public-private partnership in May to address the needs of University of L’Aquila students. While all of these efforts have focused on meeting the area’s educational and human resource needs, Slow Food has aptly seen to protect the devastated local farmers and producers.
Abruzzo’s farmers and producers were significantly hurt by the quake. Enzo and Dina Galano of the Galano Dairy Farm, for example, lost their home in the earthquake and are now forced to live in a room attached to their barn. As if that were not enough, the quake caused severe damage to their barn and hay silo (pictured above), forcing the couple to frantically build a temporary shelter for their 60 cows before the arrival of the harsh winter weather. Facing hardships like these, many local producers of Abruzzo are now considering tossing in the towel and abandoning their agrarian lives for the city. Such migrations of necessity, however, would significantly damage the traditions rooted in the producers’ practices.
In response, several leaders and members of the Slow Food San Francisco chapter have formed the Sustain Abruzzo project to provide these local producers with the support they need. During the month of October, Sustain Abruzzo successfully arranged for several restaurants and food and wine producers to host fundraising events for the cause. With six events under their belts and six more in the works, the project promises to offer some much-needed aid to the Galano Dairy Farm and others.
To contribute to this effort, check out the Sustain Abruzzo web site and sign up to donate to the campaign, host a fundraising event, or offer to distribute local products of the Abruzzo region. With the help of the Sustain Abruzzo project, the local farmers and producers of the Abruzzo region can protect and preserve their invaluable food traditions
Posted on Thu, November 05, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Jorge Cubas
MAKE is a quarterly DIY magazine for geek hobbyists and everyday item-hackers who gladly void their warranties to unlock the hidden potential behind their Robosapiens and old iPods. I inhale every issue; Cory Doctorow’s insightful essays on intellectual property (which I often cite to defend my rampant file-sharing), potato-guns, cigar-box guitars, soldering lessons, and lately, humanure and vermiculture. My worm bin is my latest obsession, and this one might stick. But first, a bit on how I got here.
I had once proudly placed Norman Borlaug at the top of my personal heroes list. His passing last month was, for me, eerily emblematic. At school, among scientists, the Green Revolution was framed in such a way that I could never doubt its nobility and the urgency with which it was executed. Borlaug had saved a billion lives. How could that be wrong? One evening last winter, my friend Evan angrily (over cheap Trader Joe’s wine and pierogies) began me down a path of revelation: food aid had been used by the US to gain political power over developing nations. GMOs threatened food sovereignty by providing absurd legal power to companies like Monsanto. I read Raj Patel’s work, watched King Corn. I sadly gave up my dreams of feeding the world. I felt betrayed by science.
I traded Borlaug in for an urban farmer named Will Allen. Most intriguing was his curious affection for the worms he keeps. He seems to measure the worth of his farm by the health of his worms. People had been responding to agribusiness all around me and I had never before paid attention, because I believed them to be radical, and traditional farming techniques antiquated. I learned about CSA’s and composting and a non-profit called Slow Food USA.
So when the Re-Make America issue of MAKE arrived this July with instructions for an indoor worm bin, I thought it serendipitous. I ordered worms from the Lower East Side Ecology Center and bought a plastic container, into which I drilled many many holes. A neighbor’s giant bag of shredded legal documents provided the bedding and my family’s immense supply of kitchen scraps meant my new pets would never go hungry. My worm population soared. Now I have a bin full of food-growing power.
Posted on Wed, November 04, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Emily Stephenson
The USDA is preparing to implement new legislation soon that will allow slaughterhouses with 25 or fewer employees to ship meat across state lines. At first the news seem innocuous, but it is in fact very exciting for both small farmers and those who support them.
The groundwork for this bill was laid out under the 2008 Farm Bill, which set aside 5 percent of USDAs business and industry loan guarantee program for local food production, providing the initial building blocks for the Know Your Farm Know Your Food initiative. Deputy USDA Secretary Kathleen Merrigan credits Congress with providing the initial impetus for the program, though she herself deserves quite a bit of credit too.
“Restoring the link between consumers and local producers will not only open new income opportunities for small farmers and generate wealth that will stay in rural communities, it will also expand access to healthy, fresh, and locally produced food,” said Merrigan.
Know Your Farmer Know Your Food was launched in September of this year, and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack hopes the $65 million program will begin a national conversation to help develop local and regional food systems and spur economic opportunity. By connecting local consumers with their local food producers, local wealth stays in local economies, and rural communities get revitalized. The money has been available in previous years, but the program aims to create a one stop shop for local food issues. And while the initiative does nothing to address the practices of industrial agriculture, its great to see small and local getting such well-deserved attention and support.
The news surrounding state-inspected slaughterhouses is particularly groundbreaking. Currently, 27 states operate meat or poultry inspection programs, and FSIS (Food Safety Inspection Services) confirmed that the state programs requirements are “at least equal to” those under the federal meat and poultry products inspection acts. For these programs, FSIS provides up to 50 percent of the state’s operating funds, as well as oversight and enforcement. State-inspected establishments that are not selected for the voluntary program, including state-inspected establishments with more than 25 employees, will remain eligible only to sell and ship their products within their state.