What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Thu, January 28, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Emily Vaughn
No matter how sustainably produced your food purchases are, food that goes uneaten is a waste of resources and a major pollutant. Food scraps make up nearly 13 percent of municipal waste in the US. That percentage includes discarded trimmings like carrot peels and apple cores, but the bulk consists of surplus or aesthetically imperfect items from food service providers. Organic material like food waste produces methane as it decomposes in landfills: a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. Whats a conscientious consumer to do?
One solution is to reclaim discarded food from the dumpster. The new documentary, Dive!: Living off Americas Waste
Dive!: Living off Americas Wasteby newcomer director Jeremy Seifert follows a lighthearted a group of bearded, freegan friends as they rifle through the trash bins of LAs big-box grocery stores, and rattle off the code of containering (eg. Never take more than you need). One dives haul includes plastic cartons of blueberries, presumably thrown out because a handful of berries were bruised or moldy. The next morning the directors towheaded toddler grins with a mouthful of blueberry pancakes as he explains the meals origin to the camera.
But after a few dives that reveal the extent of the food available for scavenging, the film matures from a youthful how-to into a serious examination of the industrial and corporate practices that make dumpster diving possible. In a pivotal scene with cleverly balanced gravity and cheek, Seifert does some quick mathwritten out on a driveway in freecylced Reddi-wipto show that reclaiming just one percent of the food thrown out in LA County would more than triple the food deficit of its food banks.
The focus then shifts to getting grocery stores to step-up their donation programs, and inspiring citizens to make it happen. The film closes with a quote from Noam Chomsky, Change and progress very rarely are gifts from abovethey come out of struggles from below.Ԡ And it looks like the dumpster is the new battleground.
Posted on Wed, January 27, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Alaine Janosy
Youth gardens have become an integral part of spreading Slow Food USAs message of good, clean, and fair food to young people throughout the country. Conserving and promoting a biologically diverse food system is a critical element of this message so those managing such gardens are encouraged to plant crops found on the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste. This year, Slow Food Northern Arizona co-leader, Gay Chanler, was instrumental in ensuring US Ark of Taste foods were part of the Flagstaff Youth Garden at the Museum of Northern Arizona.
The garden has been experimenting with the three sister crops of the Southwestcorn, beans, and squashsince it began in 2002. This past summer, Anna Normandin, garden coordinator and undergraduate student at Northern Arizona University, wanted to expand the diversity of the garden by growing out eight varieties from the USA Ark of Taste. Her goal was not only to increase the number of heirloom varieties in the garden, but also to find out how these varieties would grow in an arid environment 7,000 feet above sea level.
Anna and Gay worked together during the seed selection process, using information from the Native Seeds/SEARCH catalog to select varieties most likely to flourish in the Flagstaff climate. Native Seeds/SEARCH donated the seeds selected for the garden, including LItoi Onions, Palomas de Chihuahua Popcorn, Nambe Supreme Chili and Valarde Chili, Amaranth Paiute, New Mexico Tomatillo, Colorado Bolita Beans, Hopi Red Lima Beans, and Hopi Yellow Pole Beans.
Posted on Tue, January 26, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
Do you appreciate the value of local food? Have curiosity about the role that local food business can play in economic development, community development and food access?
And one more question: Will you be in DC this Thursday? If so, you can attend these panels live, and hear Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan weigh in on the benefits of locally owned food businesses. If not, you can listen to them on your computer and join in from anywhere at all.
The Wallace Center at Winrock International and the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) present a pair of panels on their newly released report Community Food Enterprise: Local Success in a Global Marketplace (CFE). They have profiled 24 locally owned food businesses in the U.S. (and internationally), including The White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia, Lorentz Meats in Cannon Falls Minnesota, and The Intervale Center in Burlington Vermont. These studies examine the financial, social, and environmental performance of each enterprise, revealing milestones, challenges, and strategies for replicating successes, and demonstrating how locally owned food enterprises are an increasingly powerful driver for local economic development.
Check ‘em out!
Posted on Mon, January 25, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
The temperature is rising on the conversation about school lunch reform!
Posted on Thu, January 21, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA President Josh Viertel
This post originally appeared on the Atlantic Food Channel
A year ago I sat in a room at the Earth Institute at Columbia surrounded by executives from big food companies. One of them, I believe from Unilever, clicked to a slide that read “The solution to global hunger is to turn malnutrition into a market opportunity.” The audienceglobal development practitioners and academics and other executivesnodded and dutifully wrote it down in their notebooks; I shuddered. The experience stayed with me and I haven’t gotten over it. Last month, I had a flashback.
On a Tuesday evening I sat in a room on the 44th floor of a building in the financial district of lower Manhattan with representatives from General Mills, Monsanto, Dean Foods, Deutsche Bank, and the Rainforest Alliance. We were there to speak to institutional investorsthe hedge fund managers, bankers, and others who invest in big food companiesabout sustainability and food. In particular, we were there to talk about how sustainability and hunger issues may give these companies both exposure to risk and access to opportunity.
It was not your average sustainable food panel discussion. Reflecting back on it, three things jump out at me. The first was a false premise that is taken for fact. The false premise:
Both Deutsche Bank and Monsanto made it clear that they are basing their business strategy on answering a simple question: How will we feed the world in 2050, when the population reaches over 9 billion and global warming puts massive strains on our resources? The answer for Deutsche Bank: increase yields by investing in industrial agriculture in the developing world, with an emphasis on technology; put lots of capital into rural land to shift subsistence and local market agricultures to commodity export agriculture. The answer for Monsanto: increase yields by decreasing resource dependence using genetically modified crops.
At first glance, these answers make both Monsanto and Deutsche Bank look virtuous. But they rest on a false premise: “There will be over 9 billion people by 2050. We have less than 7 billion today, and people go hungry. We need to increase food production if we are going to feed them.” Indeed, there will be over 9 billion people by 2050, and indeed, with less than 7 billion today, people still go hungry. But we don’t need to increase crop yields to feed these people. In 2008, globally, we grew enough food to feed over 11 billion people. We grew 4,000 calories per day per personroughly twice what people need to eat.
Posted on Thu, January 21, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Julia Middleton
My mother and I have been arguing for years about how to make the perfect soft boiled egg so when she scanned the table of contents in the Best Food Writing 2009 and saw Eggs Enough and Time by Margaret McArthur, she felt obligated to put a copy of the book for me under the Christmas tree. After both of us read the article, I am happy to say we’ve solved the time disagreement amiably.
The Best Food Writing anthology has included answers to this question and many more food musings since it was first published in 2000. One of the most exciting things about the 2009 edition is the breadth of sources included in this collection. As you would expect, The New Yorker, Gourmet [RIP -ed.], Bon Appetit, The New York Times and Gastronomica were all represented. But what is more impressive to me is the range of newspapers and blogs that published noteworthy food writing in 2009. As Jerusha explored in a post on this blog last week, online food writing is upping the ante and helping to create not only better educated eaters but also rich food communities.
This edition of Best Food Writing 2009 is also filled with not only fine writers you’d expectRuth Reichl, Frank Bruni and Marcella Hazanbut others you may not. Douglas Bauer’s What We Hunger For, an elegy to his friendship with M.F.K. Fisher, is a beautiful reminder of the conviviality of food. The Misunderstood Habanero by Tim Stark, a struggling writer-turned-farmer-finally-turned-successful-writer, explores the spicy chili pepper and is another excellent addition.
Posted on Wed, January 20, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Emily Vaughn
Raj, does everything for you always come back to food?
At a lecture at the New York Society for Ethical Culture last week, moderator Amy Goodmanhost of the independent news program Democracy Now!interjected this good-natured dig because Raj Patel had used food-centric case studies to answer questions about the World Bank, Haiti, carbon trading, and free market capitalism, and was starting up a new one (details later in the post). Patels affirmative response made the audience chuckle, and although Patel was smiling as he said it, those familiar with Stuffed and Starvedhis landmark study of the economic and political implications of global food production and tradeknow that he was mostly serious.
The connections between food and issues like social justice, international politics, and environmentalism are familiar to most anyone reading the Slow Food USA blog, as is the advice that Patel gave during the Q&A to boycott corporate industrial food and consume smarter. But hearing his words in an auditorium of like-minded people was inspiring, and when he urged us all to learn more about the Child Nutrition Act, La Via Campesina, and the Farm Bill, and above all, to take action, it renewed my belief that there are enough people who care about these issues to make progress.
Naomi Kleinauthor of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine was Patels co-panelist for the evening. Among her insights was that President Obama’s best and worst qualities are the same: he’s susceptible to pressure. Patel and Klein both suggested that the supporters who were vocal and active enough to get Obama elected have backed off, leaving him free to cater to the demands of big business without citizen repercussions. Klein mentioned several times how difficult it can be for activists to stay motivated, and said that if were going to come away from the one-year anniversary of President Obamas inauguration free of cynicism, we need to focus on rebuilding the infrastructure of independent social movements.
Posted on Thu, January 14, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
As more foodborne illness outbreaks continue to come to light, there is growing demand to know more about where foods originate. When you buy directly from the producer, i.e. at the farm or at the farmers market, there’s no need for fancy gadgets, but when that isn’t possible, you might be interested in a little help from your phone.
Thanks to Bill Marler’s Food Safety News for the tip about HarvestMark. Kind of reminds me of the microchip you can use to find your pet. So, there’s Locavore—which helps you know what’s in season near you—and now YottaMark, Inc. aims to demystify the process that brings produce to market with an iPhone app called HarvestMark. Now you can use your iPhone to trace the origin of those leafy greens you just bought, or are contemplating buying.
How it works: you buy an item with the HarvestMark sticker with a numeric code on it. Then you can go to their website and enter the code located on the product or, just download the HarvestMark application to your phone to access this information before you decide to buy. Here’s what you learn:
which farm was this product grown in
when was it picked
how long it has been in storage
who the middlemen were
TMI? When it comes to learning about where your food comes from, the more the better. And maybe it will help generate even more demand for transparency in food production.
Posted on Wed, January 13, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Emily Vaughn
In a world of increasing globalization and environmental degradation, management of its most precious living resource, biological diversity, is one of the most important and critical challenges facing humankind today.
- Hamdallah Zedan, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity
While slow food advocates might value biodiversity solely for its ecological value, the UN seeks to increase awareness about the other sectors that also rely on it by naming 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB). For example, did you know that more than 57% of the 150 most commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals in the US have their origins in biodiversity?” The importance of biodiversity is so far-reaching that Dr. Robert Bloomfield, director of the UKs IYB celebrations, points to a recent international report which warns that our neglect of the natural services provided by biodiversity is an economic catastrophe of an order of magnitude greater than the global economic crisis.”
Of course, biodiversity is hugely important in agriculture. What better microcosm of biological interdependence is there than a farm? Whether considering air and water purification, microbial composition of soil, erosion prevention, or disease resistance, biodiversity is always center stage in food production, and is crucial for food security.
Keep an eye on the news and our blog for coverage of IYB events and talks, especially after the February 10 North American kickoff at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In the meantime, check out the excellent resources for educators and concerned citizens that the IYBs organizing body, the Conference for Biological Diversity, has prepared.
As the new biodiversity program intern at Slow Food USA, Im excited to see worldwide attention surrounding an issue that Ive chosen to make my own focus, and look forward to using the blog to spread the word about UN and SFUSA biodiversity projects in the coming months!
Posted on Mon, January 11, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA staffer Gordon Jenkins
The Des Moines Register reports that USDA Secretary Tom Vilsacks current chief of staff has moved on to a position with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and is being replaced by Karen Ross, former president of the California Winegrape Growers Association and one of the Sustainable Dozen proposed in 2008 by Food Democracy Now for the position of USDA Secretary.
On the blog La Vida Locavore, Jill Richardson quotes Michael Dimock (president of the organization Roots of Change), who has praised Ms. Ross as an advocate for sustainable agriculture and believes she will give Californias fruit and vegetable growers a stronger voice in the USDA.
She joins Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, another important local food advocate in a top leadership role at the USDA. Their presence in D.C. represents a much-needed policy shift towards supporting local food and addressing the needs of actual farmers.
[late addition: Obamafoodorama tweets that on a conference call today Vilsack declined to confirm this news…stay tuned!]