What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Mon, July 19, 2010 by Intern
Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack has been defending both Big Ag and small farms in recent Senate hearings, leaving both sides scratching their heads. “I have two sons,” he says, “and I love them both.”
by intern Shauna Nep
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been criticized by some in Big Ag for his promotion of small-scale farmers and local food systems. And yet—he has been passionately defending conventional producers conventional producers recent Senate hearings. As well as small-scale farmers. Some are upset with Vilsack’s centrist attitude, but Vilsack says that his approach embraces all agriculture and is not about choosing sides, “I have two sons,” he says, “and I love them both.”
In his defense of conventional agriculture, Vilsack emphasized the “exciting potential” of using agricultural waste for biofuels, which he has described as the “key to revitalizing the economy.” Vilsack has also asserted that we owe farmers thanks for how little Americans pay for food, saying that while the average American spends about 10% of their income on food, other developed countries pay closer to 25% or 30%. [To listen, click here.]
At the same time, Vilsack continues to strongly defend small and mid-scale farms and local food systems. In an exchange with Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss, Vilsack was asked where production agriculture and commodity crops fit into USDA’s focus on the five pillars for the next farm bill (regional food systems, rural broadband, renewable energy, conservation and ecosystem market incentives). Vilsack responded by acknowledging the importance of global trade markets, but also by defending local food systems:
“It’s also about expanding domestic markets, and creating opportunities. That’s one of the reasons why we are focused on trying to better link local production with local consumption; this is not just about very very small operations. This is about production agriculture. The ability of schools, institutional purchasers of food, to be able access things locally. Sometimes you’d be surprised that there are folks in small communities who are purchasing food from far far away that don’t realize or appreciate what’s being grown and raised in their area. That’s why we’re focusing on trying to rebuild the supply chain with local slaughter facilities and mobile slaughter facilities with storage facilities, also creating job opportunities.” [To listen to Vilsack’s response, click here].
Can Vilsack promote the local food system while still supporting Big Ag? Post your comments below.
Posted on Mon, July 19, 2010 by Slow Food USA
Slow Food Indy comes together to support a farm family after a tragedy.
By Corrie Quinn, member of Slow Food Indianapolis
“Happy is said to be the family which can eat onions together. They are, for the time being, separate from the world.” - Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden, 1871
Folks with a thumb any shade of green can guess that farming is risky business: betting on the weather and against pests, doubling down on a chef’s preference and nearly folding when endless days in the field culminate with working weekends at the market. We might say farmers eat onions together. They bare the bitter risk to provide us with sweet, secure sustenance.
In central Indiana, we’ve been painfully reminded of our producers’ risky profession as the news spreads of a tragic accident in the fields of Seldom Seen Farm.
Every day, John Ferree and his wife Kelly Funk bring their one-year-old daughter Laila to the fields that John’s family has been tilling for generations. While neither John nor Kelly grew up farming, they’ve been deeply committed to their work since starting the farm in 2004 and have been providing several Hoosier communities with good, clean, and fair food ever since. The couple hosts Slow Food Indy events and represented central Indiana at Slow Food’s Terra Madre festival in 2008.
Two weeks ago, Kelly and John waited in their barn for a storm to pass. The sky was clearing up so they went back to work in the field where Kelly was picking onions. She was struck by lightning and her heart stopped until her husband John administered CPR. Today, Kelly is in critical but stable condition; she is still unconscious while doctors begin to administer tests and discuss Kelly’s future with her family.
Posted on Fri, July 16, 2010 by Slow Food USA
An update on the school lunch bill in the House of Representatives.
Yesterday, the House Committee on Education and Labor, which is tasked with updating the National School Lunch Program, finally passed its Child Nutrition bill (H.R. 5504) by a bipartisan vote of 32 to 13. The bill proposes to establish healthier nutrition standards for school meals, to kick junk food out of school vending machines, and to help schools connect with local farms and plant school gardens. It would also provide a very modest increase (six cents) to the funding schools receive to serve each lunch ($2.68, about a dollar of which goes to ingredients).
While we’re glad to see progress being made, six cents isn’t going to transform a program that’s failing to serve healthy food in the midst of a child obesity crisis.
The Senate Agriculture Committee passed a similar Child Nutrition bill in March. Now that both bills are out of committee, we’re waiting on Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to schedule both the bills for floor debate and pass them as quickly as possible. Child Nutrition programs were supposed to be updated last year, and are currently on a one-year temporary extension. The current legislation expires on September 30, so if House and Senate leaders don’t move quickly, we may see another one-year delay – which means another year of neglecting the health of America’s children.
Posted on Tue, July 13, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
An amazing new video from WHY Hunger exploring the links between climate change and the global food system.
How we farm and eat is simultaneously one of the greatest contributors to climate change and one of its greatest potential solutions. The same global food system that is making us sick, increasing food insecurity, and polluting the environment is also contributing to climate change. Climate change, in turn, is contributing to rising rates of hunger and food insecurity. As much as 1/3 of greenhouse gas emissions come from the food system.
Want to know more about that?
WHY Hunger has released a brand new online film called “The Food and Climate Connection: From Heating the Planet to Healing It,” that highlights the impact of today’s global food system on the climate and how a community-based food movement around the world is bringing to life a way of farming and eating that’s better for our bodies and the planet. Featuring interviews with farmers, community leaders, and sustainability advocates, the film highlights how the industrial food system is among the greatest contributors to global warming and how sustainable farming practices can pose a powerful solution to the crisis.
The movie was done in collaboration with Anna Lappe, author of the recently released “Diet for a Hot Planet,” which also explores this crucial intersection between how we grow and transport our food and how that affects the planet—not to mention how the changes in our environment willl affect the way we grow and transport our food moving forward.
Posted on Mon, July 12, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Shauna Nep
What does it take to bring real change to the food system? Does change start with the American public and the grassroots? Does change rest with the farmers who grow our food? To get where we want to be we need the support of both, and so it is important to understand the concerns of both. What are Americans most concerned about? What are farmers looking for in farm policy reform? Are there areas of common ground between Big Ag and the American people?
A national opinion survey [registration required to access] found that Americans are most concerned with how agriculture and food relates to health, rating issues of obesity, antibiotic resistance, and diet-related diabetes to be the most serious. Americans were less concerned with food being imported from abroad, most food being produced by big corporations, and feeding cows corn instead of grass.
When asked about approaches to reforming farm policy, Americans strongly supported expanding incentives to farmers who reduce pollution, and providing incentives to farmers who grow fruits and vegetables. Reducing subsidies to Big Ag got the least support.
And the farmers?
Posted on Fri, July 09, 2010 by Slow Food USA
by Julia Landau
Now, according to Rodríguez, after thousands of online registrations, only three people have turned up to their newfound workplaces. Hmm, make that soon-to-be four, now that Colbert is jumping in, too.
You might be wondering, “Who are these three people?”
Well, I don’t know! Are they out to call the UFW’s bluff? Or join the UFW in solidarity? Are they folks genuinely looking for employment? If you know, please clue me in.
And click here to learn more about the campaign if this is the first time you’re reading about it!
Posted on Thu, July 08, 2010 by Intern
by intern Minal Gill
Aletha Soule of Slow Food Sonoma County has taken supporting good, clean and fair practices one step further by making fresh produce available to those in need. Her network Slow Harvest took up the sizable task of gleaning local produce and transporting it to local food banks. “Gleaning” refers to gathering leftover crops after they’ve been commercially harvested. It’s done in order to recover food that would otherwise go to waste due to over-abundance, surface blemishes or time constraints.
Slow Harvest first began the project at Nathan Boone’s First Light Farms with a team of volunteer gleaners. The effort involved collecting surplus food from the farm, weighing, packaging and bringing it to Food for Thought Foodbank, Forestville.
And these gleaners don’t just hand over the raw product – they’re preserving food as well! Their first community canning session involved an abundance of Gravenstein apples, a Slow Food Presidia product. Similarly, Relish Culinary Adventures, Healdsburg, CA hosted another session in their kitchen to can surplus tomatoes. Each volunteer contributed two cases of canning jars, which was their price of admission. They spent the day turning in jars of tomato sauce for the Healdsburg Food Pantry, CA.
Click here for the complete video on Slow Food Sonoma County’s gleaning initiatives and scroll down to “Gleaning, Slowharvest Style”
Posted on Sun, July 04, 2010 by Intern
by intern Christine Binder
Last Thursday, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) convened the House Education and Labor Committee for a hearing on the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act of 2010 (H.R. 5504), the House’s version of the Child Nutrition Act.
Witnesses at the hearing included USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack; Chef Tom Colicchio of Top Chef; James D. Weill of the anti-hunger organization FRAC; Dr. Eduardo J. Sanchez, a family practice physician and health insurance executive; U.S. Army Major General Paul D. Monroe from the organization Mission Readiness; and Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation (who was the only witness to speak against Child Nutrition legislation).
Most of the legislators present seemed in favor of implementing Farm to School programs and removing junk food from schools. Those are great steps forward, but they’re only partial victories if the Child Nutrition Bill doesn’t receive full funding. Right now, the National School Lunch Program leaves schools with about $1.00 for each meal’s ingredients. This bill would add six cents – not enough to give every child access to a healthy meal.
Posted on Fri, July 02, 2010 by Slow Food USA
by guest blogger Bettina Elias Siegel of The Lunch Tray
When I was asked to write about why I recently started my blog, The Lunch Tray, I came to see that it really all started with a simple packet of animal crackers.
By way of background, I’m a former lawyer and current freelance writer living in Houston. I’m also the stay-at-home parent of two children at an HISD public elementary school. I’ve had a longstanding concern about public school food and last spring was appointed to a new Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) formed by HISD and Aramark (the company to which our food services operations are outsourced).
Right around this time, HISD was expanding its initial roll-out of a universal, in-classroom breakfast program, so at the first PAC meeting, HISD showed the parents the food it was serving for breakfast—Trix yogurt, high sodium biscuit and sausage sandwiches, Uncrustable peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and the like. Horrible stuff, but what really baffled me was that at every meal, kids were also required to take a packet of animal crackers.
When I asked about the animal crackers, the HISD/Aramark dietician explained that they were needed for the meal to meet USDA nutritional guidelines and thereby qualify for government reimbursement. That really stumped me. I started to realize I’d stumbled into an area totally outside my prior experience, which led me to Janet Poppendieck’s fantastic new book, Free for All: Fixing School Food in America, an invaluable School Lunch 101 for anyone trying to wrap their head around our present system. [Editor’s note: we reviewed the book here.]
Meanwhile, when parents started finding out that I was on the PAC, it seemed like everyone had something to say to me. I was stopped in hallways to discuss everything from school food to Oreos at the 10 am soccer game—people clearly wanted to have this conversation. And, armed with the new knowledge I’d gained through the PAC and my own research, I realized I had a lot to say, too. Hence, The Lunch Tray.
Posted on Fri, July 02, 2010 by Slow Food USA
by Julia Landau
Some foods you can just feel. Maybe your fingers automatically prepare it, maybe your eyes jump straight to the choice ingredient at the market, maybe you smell it from light years away. Point being – it’s not a science but a feeling and for many, not a recipe but a ritual.
Such seems to be the basis of the foods prepared in Breaking Bread: Recipes and Stories from Immigrant Kitchens, a collection gathered and narrated by Lynne Christy Anderson. In the homes, markets, and kitchens of 25 immigrants, Anderson is afforded a privileged view of international eats and personal histories as people prepare a familiar dish. Family tips abound. Memories flow. Frustrations seep out. But measurements are in short supply.
The cooks in this collection hail from far and wide, yet share a key element: a feel for the food. Certainly, they provide Anderson with approximations, and create steps resembling a recipe, but I have a hunch that it’s mostly to humor the eager reader like myself. In their narratives, it’s clear that memories about and associations with the food drive its preparation more than any measuring cup.
The cooks add flour until the dough gets that feel, they mash potatoes until they shouldn’t be mashed anymore, they pat out tortillas until they’re just thin enough. They take cues based on experiences and anecdotes, and their foods are born from visions of their homes both past and present.
Now this is my kind of cookbook. These people and foods have stories, and I find myself considering how I might remember my aunt’s fried okra and collard greens when reproducing memories of home. Yes, when reading Breaking Bread the anxious cook in me wonders if I have a prayer of knowing when the tortilla is “just thin enough.” But then, I take a moment to relax: recipes travel and evolve, as do we. We develop our feel for food every time we cook, wherever we are.