What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Fri, March 05, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Jackie Fortin
We can create the best nutrition education and physical education programs in the world, but if dinner is something off of the shelf of a local gas station or convenience store, because there’s no grocery store nearby, all our best efforts are going to go to waste, the First Lady said during a speech at Philadelphias Fairhill School on Feb. 19 to launch the Obama Administrations new Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI).
Currently, the USDA estimates that 23.5 million Americans, including 6.5 million children live in food deserts, or economically distressed areas that are typically served by fast food restaurants and convenience stores offering little or no fresh produce.
Food deserts, which can now be identified using USDAs new Food Environment Atlas, are one of the many results of the nations broken food system preventing individuals from making better choices and denying them the ability to vote with their forks. When an area lacks healthy, affordable food options, its inhabitants are prone to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
In order to achieve the Obama Administrations goal of eliminating food deserts nationwide in the next seven years, the HFFI will fund a movement of bringing grocery stores and other healthy food retailers to underserved urban and rural communities across America. The effort will also include providing grocery stores on wheels for less densely populated areas, said Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan during her Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food presentation at The New School Feb. 25.
The $400 million initiative, which will use a mix of federal tax credits, below-market rate loans, loan guarantees, and grants aimed to attract private sector capital, is being made possible through a partnership between the departments of Treasury, Agriculture and Health and Human Services.
Modeled after the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI), the HFFI will ideally not only provide access to healthy food, but will also invest in communities by removing financing obstacles and operating barriers, as well as by creating living wage jobs and qualified work forces.
Posted on Thu, March 04, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Christine Binder
Earlier this week, a team of Chicago high school students traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak up for better school food, but they did not come empty-handed. The students, from the Tilden Career Community Academy, brought along their award-winning recipes. Back in October, the team of six won the Healthy Schools Campaign’s 2009 “Cooking Up Change” competition. Their chicken-vegetable jambalaya, jalapeno cornbread, and cucumber salad were served to Congress in the Longworth House of Representatives cafeteria and also at a Capitol Hill briefing on the future of school food.
The students specifically designed the menu to exceed current nutrition standards for school lunches and fall under a budget of one dollar per serving, which is the same amount that school districts around the country have to spend on ingredients for each school lunch. Meeting budgetary and nutritional requirements was the most difficult part of the competition, according to the Tilden students.
Cooking up Change gives students a forum to present their creative ideas about what healthy school food can be,” said Rochelle Davis, the founding executive director of Healthy Schools Campaign. “And while the contest is fun, it carries an important message: schools need more money for better food.”
Posted on Tue, March 02, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Daniela Salazar Monárrez, 8th grader at Hillcrest Academy and Slow Food Club founder
Yesterday the Slow Food clubs of Van Avery Prep and Hillcrest Academy got together with the Slow Food USA president Joshua Viertel. Josh kindly came to Temecula to meet our two Slow Food clubs, which are the first middle school clubs in the country. We had prepared our questions and were armed with freshly picked lettuce, organic salad dressing, and lemonade made from school grown lemons. With tasty food and our questions ready to go, both schools felt comfortable for the arrival of our Slow Food celebrity.
Josh was tall. He was warm and friendly, greeting with a smile and handshake. All the members of both clubs got to shake his hand and listen to some information about the Slow Food Organization. The younger members got to ask a few questions, then the twelve chosen representatives went to the round table (which was really squared). The smaller group settled down and got ready to ask questions.
After an introduction by yours truly, the questions began. They ranged from personal specific things like Do you have a garden? to bigger more general things like What would you change about food in the world, and why? but each student got a chance to ask a question.
We learned about how he believes that the fact that some people don’t buy good food doesn’t mean they have bad morals. ... It says something bad about our society, that people don’t have enough money to buy good food for themselves, he told us. We discovered that even Josh has bought fast food, when he was stuck at an airport, hungry, and had only fast food available. No one is perfect, he said the main thing is how you act most of the time. Josh explained his interest in slow food and how he believed in the concept before he heard about the organization.
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 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 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.
Posted on Fri, February 12, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
When it comes to our food system, everyone has a different wake up call. For Congresswoman Nita Lowey, it was reading about ammonia use in ground beef in the New York Times. A grandmother of eight and former healthy food advocate during her own children’s early years, Mrs. Lowey was horrified. She knew she must take further action.
As she rounded up food and health experts in the county to learn more, she called upon Slow Food Westchester to be part of the conversation. Mrs. Lowey had attended our Slow Food Eat-In on Labor Day at the Washington Irving School in Tarrytown along with 200 local residents. That event impressed her with our group’s ability to create community around advocating for better food in schools. Slow Food has done a great job in framing the conversation about food that is good, clean and fair.
Our meeting with Mrs. Lowey went well. We handed her more information on Slow Food’s mission and Slow Food’s national policy platform for the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act. We also discussed the value of a better school lunch program in conjunction with the health care issues she is facing in Congress. We used the opportunity to hand her a booklet filled with letters written by kids and parents about school lunch. Reading these letters and hearing the stories of families impacted her in a way that no statistic on childrens health could. Congresswoman Lowey is now a passionate advocate for a better food system.
Over 20 years ago, Wendell Berry said, Eating is an agricultural act. It’s more true today than it ever was. But today, thanks to Michael Pollan and others, we also know that eating is a political act and that we vote with our forks every day. These days, when both personal and planetary health are on the line, it’s up to all of us to go beyond the end of our forks and roll up our sleeves to get involved. Writing a letter to your Congressional representative can be a great start to a deeper connection to your own government that will help result in real change for our nation’s food policy.
Both food and democracy work best when we are not just spectators but active participants.
Posted on Thu, February 04, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
The debate around school lunch and child nutrition is gathering major momentum. The 2 big reasons why:
Slow Food International also runs a publishing company, Slow Food Editore, which specializes in tourism, food and wine. The library now contains about 40 titles and houses Slow, the award-winning quarterly herald of taste and culture, available in five languages: Italian, English, French, German and Spanish.