What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Fri, February 26, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Christine Binder
Last month, I attended a meeting of parents at a Brooklyn public school. Janet Poppendieck, the author of Free for All: Fixing School Lunch in America, led a discussion about the state of school lunches, describing to us the changes in the National School Lunch Program over the years, and explaining the various forces that continue to shape what students eat. Afterward, we discussed the potential of the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization which only happens every five years to improve school lunches.
In researching for Free For All, Dr. Poppendieck, a professor of sociology at Hunter College, visited school cafeterias and kitchens all over the country, and even spent time working in one. Along the way, she met many people striving to improve school food in their own communities, whom she describes in the “Local Heroes” chapter of the book. It is heartening to hear their stories of success, but I cant help but agree with her when she says, It shouldnt be so hard. One should not have to be a superhero, a magician, or a saint to get healthy, tasty food into the school cafeteria, or to make school food truly accessible to children.”
Currently, there are many obstacles for those working to improve school food. It is very difficult to serve delicious, healthful meals to children with a food budget of less than a dollar per meal. Many schools need to sell junk food in vending machines and snack bars in order to break even. Procuring local food is not always possible, due to bureaucratic and logistical barriers. Poppendieck points out, however, that the National School Lunch Program is ultimately the responsibility of Congress, and that only Congress can “step up to the plate to enact changes in federal law that make local improvements much easier to achieve.”
Towards the end of the meeting, Dr. Poppendieck asked a profound question: How old will your children be in five years? Everyone in the room sat in thoughtful silence, imagining the state of school food and the well-being of their children five years from now. When you think about it that way, its very clear; Americas children cannot wait any longer for healthy school food. Tell Congress to prioritize school lunches. To quote Free for All one final time, Its time to see what we can do if we put children first.
To contact your legislator, click here!
Posted on Fri, February 26, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
I look back on my school days in Syracuse, NY in the 80s and 90s, and think: we [my classmates] must have been the last of a dying generation. There was no No Child Left Behind debacle, childhood obesity rates werent as high, we ate peanut butter sandwiches with abandon right across from allergic friends, and rarely fast food in school cafeterias.
And gosh darn it, we did walk to school in 6-foot snowdrifts and we brought in homemade cupcakes for birthdays and bake sales. Well, times have changed.
This week, by ruling of the Chancellor of NYCs Department of Ed.s Office of School Food & Nutrition, bringing in homemade baked goods for sale (or celebration) during the school day was effectively banned.
Surprisingly, this addendum was made not with concerns of food safety (allergies, food-borne illness, etc.), but of meeting nutrition standards.
Now Reg. A-812 further delineates that all such competitive foods be in single-serving packaging (none are larger than 1.75 oz.), and contain no more than 200 calories. per serving. Chips, cookies and krispie treats are still acceptable, but they must come from a list of pre-approved items provided by brand-name companies such as Frito-Lay.
Obviously, home-baked goodies arent shrink-wrapped, of uniform size, or sent to a lab to calculate caloric content. Safety would have been a better justification for me personally not adherence to already debatable nutrition standards for occasional fundraisers.
Im all for limiting the empty calories accessible to children in our schools, and increasing the nutritional value of school food. However, inherent in my thinking is a reduction in the presence of brand-name and prepared foods in schools, among other measures.
Posted on Thu, February 25, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
For meas for many of my colleaguesthis isnt so very different from a regular week. I usually make my lunch at least 3 days, if not all 5 workdays. Although lunch eats in DUMBO are better than in some neighborhoods, stuff I can make at home will almost always be better. It seems to be merely a matter of organization/planning, and making the time to prepare something. True, Ive been eating kale salad for four days running, but it did have blood oranges and avocado on top, and those sweet potatoes I baked in the office toaster oven sure made the office smell good.
On Monday, Anna Lappe came to our office and wrote this lovely piece about the merits of eating in and how it made her lunch date with Josh (Viertel) more fun and more delicious.
I myself found that the challenge got me:
The bog trick will be the weekend, which is often structured around dinners and brunches and the like. Wish me luck.
Posted on Thu, February 25, 2010 by Gordon Jenkins
Over the last few months, more than 17,000 kids, parents and ordinary citizens have sent letters to Congress asking legislators to invest in healthier food when they reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act this spring. 3,000 of those letters were hand-written (or hand-drawn, with crayons) and then mailed to legislators offices by post, with help from Slow Food leaders across the country.
Anna Green, one of the leaders of Slow Food High Desert in Central Oregon, worked with teachers and school administrators at La Pine Middle School to help eighty students write letters to U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley. Anna scanned a few of the best letters and sent them to us in a PDF click here to read them. As a teaser, here are a few of the best quotes:
We want real grated cheese made in Oregon.
I think us kids diserve [sic] better food in school.
We shouldnt have any more greasy food.
And, my favorite: If you improved the school food you would get higher test scores, which means more money for the school and teachers. If the school had more money for food some kids would not act out and not break anything. Plus if you help the school you dont have to read any more of these letters.
Its inspiring to see kids speak up about school lunch, since theyre the ones who have the most at stake: this is their future, their health, their quality of life. That said, we all have a duty to help schools serve healthier food: as President Truman said in 1946 while signing the National School Lunch Program into law, In the long view, no nation is healthier than its children.
The tens of thousands of people who are involved in Slow Food USAs Time for Lunch Campaign are hoping to see Congress pass a strong Child Nutrition Act that invests in healthier food, strengthens nutrition standards, and links schools to local farms. A form on the campaign web site makes it quick and easy for you to follow the lead of students at La Pine Middle School and write a letter to your legislators.
Posted on Wed, February 24, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Emily Vaughn three-sisters garden
Gardeners are problem-solvers. Depending on their circumstances, they become experts on coping with rocky soil, too much shade, rural varmints or limited space. But very few people besides Carissa Carman and her team of collaborators have firsthand knowledge of how successfully install a garden on the bed of a seafaring barge.
Carman, a social practice artist and seasoned gardener, was the Living Systems Director & Designer for The Waterpoda stunning biodynamic sculpture and autonomous living structure organized by artist Mary Mattingly. As it toured the waterways of New York City last summer, the Waterpod fed, powered, and watered itself by virtue of innovative technologies like a bike-powered electricity generator, and a series of gardens that others have only imagined.
The original plans for the living systems included a contained garden bed, and were outfitted with detailed co-designs from an engineering class at Humboldt State University. But as the project took shape, constraints emerged—like high winds, salty air, Waterpod residents food allergies, and lack of spacethat changed the planting methods used, and the plants themselves.
Carman viewed the groups ability to evolve its designs to meet such obstacles as one of the projects greatest successes. There were so many systems that were exciting and new, says Carman. Some of the basic construction was one of our biggest challenges. With the help of volunteers and visitors, the Waterpod food system expanded to include a wide range of growing methods, like self-irrigating planters (SIPs), companion planting (like a
three-sisters gardenand a stacking and packing bed), and hydroponic installations. Even the flowers (aesthetic pollinators) contributed to the central mission of the gardens: make sure theres plenty to eat!
Posted on Mon, February 22, 2010 by Gordon Jenkins
Slow Food USA is a relatively new recruit to the movement to reform the Child Nutrition Act. We entered the fray just last year, and did it in a particularly Slow Food way by bringing thousands of people together at more than 300 Eat-Ins nation-wide that built public support for helping schools serve healthier food.
Unbeknownst to us at the time, we were borrowing a cue from an organization with far more experience in child nutrition advocacy: the Jewish Council of Public Affairs. Every year at Passover, the JCPA and Mazon: a Jewish Response to Hunger ask leaders in the Jewish community to organize Child Nutrition Seders across the nation, bringing families, neighbors and food providers together for a meal that mixes politics with pleasure and responsibility. The 2010 Child Nutrition Seders are coming up next month.
Using one of the most evocative lines from the traditional Passover Seder Let all who are hungry come and eat organizers use the meals to re-contextualize the Passover message of redemption from slavery into the modern struggle that hungry children face today. The goal is to send a powerful message to policymakers: we have a duty to end hunger, and investing in child nutrition programs must be part of the strategy.
This years Child Nutrition Seders share a policy goal with Slow Food USAs Time for Lunch Campaign: for Congress to invest at least $1 billion in additional funding in the upcoming reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. (Slow Food USA is also urging Congress to strengthen nutrition standards and equip schools to buy local.) Since we all share a belief in the power of bringing people together around a single table, Slow Food members and supporters may be interested in attending or organizing a Child Nutrition Seder near you. Learn more on the JCPA web site.
Posted on Fri, February 19, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, Slow Food Boston
February is tough on even the most chlorophyll-phobic among us. The other day, I caught my brother-in-lawthe guy whos enacted a total ban on houseplants and helivacs the floral arrangement from the dining room tablestuffing my Seeds of Change catalog down his pants.
What are you doing? I asked.
Um, planning a garden?
Ordinarily, I would have been supportive, but were talking about fodder for late night fantasies featuring Armenian cucumbers and Kurota Chantenay carrots.
Not with my catalog you dont, I said, ripping it out of his hands. But Id be happy to give you a few pointers.
Heres what I told him:
A first-time gardener cant go wrong with a lettuce and greens patch. The case in a nutshell: 1) Theyre far and away the easiest vegetables to grow. 2) They yield the greatest bang for the buck, since you eat the whole thing except for the root. 3) Theyre a cinch to prepare: just pick, wash, dress and eat.
My favorites are the old-time varieties with their distinctive flavors, cool looks and funky names. Theres Deers Tonguemild taste, velvety texture and eponymous shape. Forellenschluss, crisp Romaine-type leaves spattered with crimson. And Bulls Blood Beet, crinkled wine-colored tops with an oxalic zing. Round out these three (all from Slow Food USAs Ark of Taste, our catalog of endangered foods) with a handful of peppery, fast-growing arugula, beloved by humankind since the Roman Empire, and you have yourself a killer saladevery day for months!
But thats not all.
By growing heirlooms, youre helping to preserve biodiversityand wresting a smidgen of control over the world seed market from big corporations. Today, a staggering 82% of the $36.5 billion seed market is proprietary, owned by a mere handful of companies (that list starts with Monsanto). Consolidation began in the 1940s with the development of supermarket-friendly hybrids (good looking! will travel!) and accelerated in the 1990s with the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
to read the rest of this article, on Boston’s “Public Radio Kitchen,” click here.
Posted on Thu, February 18, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Julia Landau
Right now, the National Farm to School Network is running two contests for grade school and college students, and has its fifth National Farm to Cafeteria Conference on its way. These are all great opportunities for Slow Food members who work with local schools, and for anyone and everyone interested in getting healthier food into schools and creating jobs in local farm economies.
The first contest asks K-12 and college students to record a video that shows what the phrase real food means to them. Farm to School poses three questions:
1 What does real food mean to you?
2 - How does what we eat affect our culture, health, economy, or environment?
3 Why should your cafeteria start or continue buying local food?
In answering these questions, the film can be anywhere from thirty seconds to three minutes, and directed in any style (documentary, fiction, live action even animated). The grand prize? Appropriately, $1,000 toward the winners school lunch project. To check out last years stars, click here.
Posted on Wed, February 17, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food on Campus member Julia Yerkovich
I have a confession to make: I am not an activist. I read my local Edible magazine and Michael Pollans books, and I shop at farmers markets. But I am not an activist. Because activists dont buy, read, or eat their way out of their problems; activists, well, act.
This notion was probably the most important thing I realized this weekend at the “Strengthening the Roots” Convergence at UC Santa Cruz. At first I was content with my self-contained actions of buying and eating local, and being a self-proclaimed escapist with ideals of aiming to live a self-sustaining lifestyle on my familys farm. I was satisfied with claiming the impossibility of toppling our capitalist government-run food system as a reasonable excuse for my refusal to act. I was frustrated with the isolated success of the food and health movement as being one that was possible only amongst those with the good fortune to have read the right books and buy the right foods.
Then I met someone who told me of a place called the Peoples Grocery in Oakland whose goal is to make healthy clean food accessible to ALL people. And I met others who had organized against their campus food service providers, or had installed a campus garden, or student run food co-operative. All of a sudden my actions of buying and eating local and my goals of escaping seemed selfish. And I no longer saw the status quo as something discouraging, but as the exact reason for action.
And then I realized it is imperative to hear and tell success stories throughout this movement; without them we lose hope. We have to be reassured that our efforts can lead to change. It is so easy to be inspired, only to choose not to act because of all the realistic roadblocks that stand in our way. After hearing stories of students pairing up with farmworkers through the Student/Farmworker Alliance or the success of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, I was reminded that no one is ever too powerful, not even government or big business, to silence our attempts to improve our food system; because, after all, we are the ones who grant them their power, and without our support, they are nobody.
On that note, I would like to leave you with a quote I heard this weekend, originally spoken by Lila Watson, an Australian aboriginal woman. It’s a quote that truly illustrates the importance of community outreach in the success of the slow food movement: If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us walk together What will move the sustainable food movement beyond being a trend is encompassing all classes.
Julia Yerkovich is a Nutrition Science Major, in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition in the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences at California State Polytechnic University, in San Luis Obispo California.
Posted on Mon, February 15, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan
While the Chinese will be celebrating 2010 as the Year of the Tiger, we in America have historically had no tigers except those in zoos and circuses. But what we once have had many ofheirloom applesare now in danger of becoming as rare as tigers are in Asia. Of some 15,000 to 16,000 apple varieties that have been named, grown and eaten on the North American continent, only about 3,000 remain widely accessible. Roughly nine out of ten apples varieties historically grown in the U.S. are at risk of falling out of cultivation, and falling off our tables.
One apple variety, Red Delicious, comprises 41% of the entire American apple crop, and eleven varieties produce 90% of all apples sold in chain grocery stores. Much of the apple juice, puree and sauce consumed in the United States is now produced in other countries. And as the overall number of apple trees in cultivation declined to a forth of what it was a century ago, the number of apple varieties considered threatened or endangered has now peaked at 94 percent. These are not just abstract statistics, for they affect not only our health, but also the health of our landscapes.
One driver of the decline in available apple diversity has been the loss of roughly 600 independently owned nurseries over the last fifteen years. They have had their business usurped by the garden-and-lawn departments (pseudo nurseries) of big-box stores, which offer far fewer apples. Perhaps just as problematic is that over the last half century, there has been a dramatic loss of traditional knowledge about apple cultivation and varietal usage.
But the worst may be yet to come. Climate change may be one of several natural and man-made factors reducing the number of chill hours being received in apple growing areas, leading to predictions that within four decades, apple production may be lost from orchard-rich regions like the Central Valley of California and from southern Pennsylvania.
There are signs of hope, however. Despite the economic downturn, heirloom and antique apple varieties are being successfully marketed at many of the 5,000 farmers markets and 2,500 Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects in the U.S. In fact, some CSAs, like the one begun by Bill Moretz in North Carolina, specialize in introducing customers to heirloom apple diversity. Consumption of hard cider is also on the rise in America, offering a means to use many heirloom varieties not well-suited for eating fresh. Future market prospects for heirloom apples look good, both among chefs and cider makers.