What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
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 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 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 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 Sat, January 09, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
This week I attended a preview of Out Here: A Queer Farmer Film Project. A work-in-progress, this documentary centers around queer farmers helping shape todays movement of do-it-yourselfers bringing an umm, rainbow of real food to Americas tables.
For nearly three years I was a farmer (I like to say Im retired). I also identify as a gay man, so I was excited to see a clip of this project. Yet, part of me wondered: why a film about queer farmers? And who is this movie for? In many ways the queerness factor has nothing to do with farming. But, when you actually ask if it does youll spark an interesting discussion.
The panel featured queer urban farmers from NYCs Greenthumb program, Just Foods Livestock Training Program, the NYC Community Gardens Coalition, and a woman from Darling Doe Farm in Saugerties in the Hudson Valley.
The audience and on-screen interviewees seemed to reach consensus that theres a natural affinity drawing us queers to agriculture today especially in the urban environment. Is it because as gays and lesbians were demonstrating that alternative ways of viewing the world have equal merit? Were successfully challenging the norms of the traditional family, so perhaps participation in new food systems and community planning are natural extensions.
I leave it to social scientists to come up with data, but discussion pointed to a seeming tendency for queer agriculturalists to address the social justice issues at play in the food system. Likely, this is because queers too, face societal injustices every day.
When we talk identity politics and sociology we uncover diverse perspectives, but may still overlook others. One panelist noted that skin color was the identifier people notice first not her sexuality. Queerness has nothing to do ability to teach another how to transplant tomatoes, but race and gender certainly may provide an element of legitimacy in ones work in disadvantaged communities for whom the current food system disproportionately serves.
Posted on Fri, January 08, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
Last night a local NYC bookstore convened some local-grown (but nationally known) food writers to discuss the state of online food writing. The panelists were:
Each of these panelists came to online food writing from different places—with Julie P. almost the young grandmommy of the movement. Looking at her old Salon blog, one has to smile—only 6 years old or so and it looks like an ancient artifact, a sepia-toned e-photograph of a simpler time. Fast forward to the lively, media rich sites like Serious Eats and Food52 and one is amazed at how far we’ve come. Conversation was lively, exploring how online food writing and real live books and newspapers can work together, even complement each other; what the demise of Gourmet meant, if anything; how online writing is exciting because it lacks the doubting gatekeepers of old institutions (who like to pigeonhole writers into their specific beats and who sometimes can’t think outside the box); how online writing can be used to form food communities (like Food52).
Interestingly not mentioned was how each of these folks use twitter—which most of them do!
One highlight: when Civil Eats editor Paula Crossfield asking about the transition we’ve all seen from food writing focusing solely on pleasure to food writing exploring provenance and politics. An extremely important point that hit home for this writer, certainly, as well as for Powell—now writing about whole animal butchery—and Erway—a regular on the NYC sustainable food scene.
Another highlight: a high school teacher in the audience got up and explained that he teaches a course called “Food and NYC” and asked the panelists for their suggestions on where to take a 16 year old for the afternoon in order to “enliven their relationship with food.” What lucky high schoolers! What a great questions! Most of the panelists seem to agree that meeting producers like bakers, pizzaiolos, farmers at the market etc. would be a great start. Also agreed upon were the ethnic culinary riches of Sunset Park, Brooklyn and Jackson Heights, Queens. Then the conversation veered towards the idea of bringing kids to high end French restaurants and my frustration grew….then, Cathy Erway to the rescue: “bring them to an urban farm!”
Phew, all was not lost.
Posted on Fri, January 08, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
If you’ve been meaning to catch one of their screenings, but haven’t yet done so, take heart: “What’s On Your Plate?” will air on the Discovery Channel on Saturday, February 6th
Consider planning a viewing party! Have a potluck, host a discussion, watch the movie in your living—anything goes. Just make sure to save the date in your calendars now. Click here to learn more about the film; it follows two eleven-year old multi-racial city kids as they explore their place in the food chain in New York City. You can also read about the movie right here on our blog where we wrote about it last July.
Posted on Thu, December 17, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Gordon Jenkins
The movement to improve school food reached Alabama last month, when Slow Food Birmingham brought school officials, chefs, farmers and the public together to highlight the challenge schools face in serving healthy school lunches and what we as citizens can do to help.
Right now, Congress gives schools only $2.68 for each lunch served. Most of that money goes to overhead, leaving schools with only $1 per meal to buy food. Even the most well meaning school nutrition directors cant keep kids healthy and prevent childhood obesity if all they can afford is cheap, processed food.
The Time for Lunch Campaign is calling for Congress to invest funding in school lunch when legislators renew the Child Nutrition Act at the beginning of next year. Across the country, volunteers are working to help kids and parents write letters to Congress and organize community events.
Slow Food Birmingham launched their local campaign by showing what could be done if Congress gave schools just $1 more per meal. Read about the event on Food Revival, the blog of volunteer organizer Amanda Storey.
The relationships that grew out of the event have led to some exciting partnerships for 2010. If youre in the Birmingham area, contact the Slow Food chapter to get involved.
Posted on Wed, December 16, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
It feels like it’s been “that time of year,” since the day after Thanksgiving. The economy’s in a bad way, so more than ever the pressure is on us to buy our way out of the hole and bring smiles to the faces of our loved ones at the same time, right?
Ever seen “The Story of Stuff?” Now’s a great time to watch that one again or for the first time and then to think about gifts that will fill your bellies instead of a landfill: food from local producers! Consider a gift of maple syrup, pickles or preserves from the local farmers market.
From our friends at Mother Nature Network (MNN), a fine list: 10 slow food Christmas gift ideas,” including CSA membership, local wine, and a membership to Slow Food USA. Brilliant!
And from membership coordinator Sheila Karaszewski:
Confession: I start listening to Christmas songs on Thanksgiving. And I don’t stop until the tree is down, the remnants of wrapping paper are cleaned up, and the last crumbs of the cookies have long disappeared. Yes, I’m a sucker for the winter holiday season and whether we’re talking about Christmas, Kwanza, Hanukkah, or Festivus, I think all the traditions and festivities are simply divine.
But while I’m daydreaming happily about gifts to give and cookies to make, not everyone has visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads this time of year. Some people are thinking about how to heat their homes and feed their families; others are worried that this will be the year they have to tell the kids that Santa doesn’t exist. As much as I love the holidays, I find that I can’t enjoy it in the same way unless I’ve done something to spread the cheer to those who need it most. I suspect that most of you feel the same way, so I’m going to help get you started with some easy ideas. Some of my favorite ways to help are with what I personally feel is most important this time of year - food, warmth and celebration.
Donate money to your local food bank (n.b. money is better than cans)
Volunteer your time or give money to a homeless shelter that operates a soup kitchen
Gather warm coats, mittens and blankets and donate to a coat drive
Bring toys to children who are hospitalized for life-threatening illnesses
Bring food and conversation to nursing homes and senior care facilities
Sponsor a needy family - provide a holiday meal, presents and decorations
Posted on Tue, December 15, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Alaine Janosy
As we near the close of 2009, Slow Food Midcoast Maine is just completing its first full year of existence, and oh what a year it has been! The chapter founders decided that the chapters inaugural year would be spent both growing the chapter and growing out endangered varieties listed in the Place-Based Foods at Risk in New England booklet, created by the Renewing Americas Food Traditions (RAFT) Alliance in order to raise community awareness about the loss of diversity in our food supply.
Midcoast Maines American Harvest Picnic was the chapters first organized event, other than chapter meetings and signature gathering at local farmers markets. Organizers brainstormed a list of local farmers that might be growing RAFT-listed or heirloom varieties and contacted them during the summer to see if they would be interested in donating any produce to the October 4th American Harvest Picnic. This resulted in ten farms committing to supplying 16 items, including four RAFT-listed varieties. The 2009 growing season in New England was wet and cold and some of the donations were lost due to crop failures, but in the end over 300 lbs of local produced ingredients were donated!
The picnic was held on Sunday October 4, 2009 at The Morris Farm in Wiscasset, Maine. In addition to enlisting local farmers and producers to supply the endangered foods, chapter members also recruited nine area culinary talents to prepare wonderful dishes using the foods provided. The event was attended by over 70 people including many children. Surplus food items were donated to the Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program. This event was not only a great success, but also a great learning experience for chapter organizers. They will be applying all the lessons learned this coming year.
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.