What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Fri, August 26, 2011 by Jerusha Klemperer
“In one moment I am buying something and can’t believe how much I get for so little money; the next item I pick up gives me sticker shock. How can both of these things be true?” the author asks.
Earlier this summer, as I was hauling a bag of farmers market produce home 15 blocks and up four flights of stairs, sweating bullets, cursing my choice to buy a melon (they’re heavy!), I stopped mid-step.
“Does it really have to be this hard?” I asked myself.
My story is particular to me, of course, but all over the country there are people trying to put food on the table and asking themselves “does it really have to be this hard?”
I was living, at the time, in a neighborhood with few supermarkets. The ones within a long walking distance were either very expensive or lacking the seasonal produce I craved. So on weekends I would hike over to the big farmers market. But at the farmers market I always find myself of two minds. In one moment I am buying something and can’t believe how much I get for so little money; the next item I pick up gives me sticker shock. How can both of these things be true?
When people ask me: “Doesn’t the food you eat (some mix of local, sustainable, organic, etc.) cost so much more than “regular” food?” I protest and agree at the same time. When they say “Doesn’t cooking from scratch take a lot of time?” I remember the awesome pasta I cooked the other night that took 7.5 minutes. But also the weekend of foraging I did going from one store to the next.
I live in New York City; I make a living wage; I am not trying to feed a family; I work on these issues for a living. If I find it hard/tiring/expensive sometimes, what must other people feel?
In the spirit of this conundrum, Slow Food USA launched the $5 Challenge last week.
Posted on Mon, August 15, 2011 by Slow Food USA
Slow Food USA officially joined several other food & farming organizations in support of the plaintiff farmers in the recently filed lawsuit against Monsanto.
In June we shared an interview with farmer (and Slow Food leader) Tom Willey (click here to read). Tom is one of many plaintiffs in a landmark case against Monsanto.
Monsanto has a history of taking farmers to court if they’re found to be in possession of patented plant material without permission, even if the plant material came to their fields inadvertently. Tired of living in fear of lawsuits that they claim are unjust, a group of farmers, seed savers, and farm advocates is challenging the agribusiness giant’s right to continue the practice.
In solidarity with the plaintiffs, and in collaboration with several other food and farming organizations, Slow Food USA has signed an “amicus brief” that expresses why we feel that patenting of seeds is bad for farmers and bad for farming.
To read the entire brief click here.
Posted on Fri, August 12, 2011 by Slow Food USA
Earlier this year, we called for immediate action on a pesticide that scientists believe is contributing to massive honeybee die-offs — and today we heard the EPA’s response.
Earlier this year, tens of thousands of Slow Food supporters came together to demand that the EPA keep its promise to investigate the causes of Colony Collapse Disorder. Their actions helped make a buzz about the devastating future that lies ahead if we don’t act now to save the bees that bring us one in every four bites of our food. They invited friends to sign a petition supported by a “swarm” of hundreds of handmade bees (see left), each representing 100 bee petition signatures. They shared the fact sheet we created about bees and food. And dozens organized screenings of the documentary “Vanishing of the Bees” in libraries and living rooms all around the country. We called for immediate action on a kind of pesticide that scientists believe is contributing to massive honeybee die-offs — and today we heard the EPA’s response. According to a spokesperson from the Office of Pesticide Programs:
Posted on Fri, July 29, 2011 by Intern
The new documentary The Harvest sheds light on the seldom discussed issue of child labor in U.S. conventional agriculture.
by interns Kelsey Wickel and Sasha Hippard
The Harvest/La Cosecha, a new film by Robert Romano, tells the story of three children, ranging from 12 to 16, who migrate seasonally with their families in order to harvest fruits and vegetables. Over the summer, these migrant children and their families travel throughout the country, from Florida to Michigan, finding work picking the produce that we eat.
Child labor in the conventional agricultural system has remained the exception to the already established child labor laws. Throughout the film, we experience the harvest through the children’s eyes as they work 10 or more hours a day, seven days a week. The cruel irony is, while almost 400,000 children work in American produce fields every year, in hot, back-breaking conditions, those same children and their families are unable to afford the very food that they harvest. Each child only makes roughly $60 a week during the harvest season (assuming they can find work at all). In the fields, there is little to no protection against constant exposure to the harsh temperatures or the pesticides which are used liberally in conventional agriculture and often while the harvesters are present.
The Harvest sheds light on the seldom discussed issue of child labor in U.S. conventional agriculture. While the film does not site specific action that the viewers may take to stop or prevent these labor practices, during the post-screening Q&A, the film’s director supported the DREAM Act as one avenue to help migrant workers and their families. Similarly, the New York Times reported last year that the Obama Administration had begun a campaign against farmers who use child labor and underpay their workers (read the article here).
For more information on the issue of child agricultural labor in general, the MSNBC piece from last year entitled America Now: Children of the Harvest is a good resource. The film’s facebook page also links related articles.
The film premieres in New York on July 29, 2011 at Quad Cinema...and hopefully at other theatres around the country soon.
Posted on Thu, June 30, 2011 by Jerusha Klemperer
A Slow Food leader shares her observations about a recent trip to Cuba to study food & agriculture.
Linda Slezak (Slow Food East End treasurer) and I recently visited Cuba on a food sovereignty study trip with Food First. A piece I wrote about Cuba’s approach to thrift and re-use was posted yesterday on Civil Eats. Linda shared her observations in the Slow Food East End newsletter, and we have reprinted them below. Food First offers Food Sovereignty tours to many other places—including Mali, Bolivia, Mexico and Spain—throughout the year.
Linda provided the following observations about her experiences in Cuba.
Cuba is a case in point about the unsustainability of monoculture farming.During Colonial times, Cuba was a plantation island providing export crops such as sugar cane, tobacco and coffee. Food crops were largely imported and during the years between 1963 and 1989, chemical fertilizers and pesticides were heavily relied upon for agriculture. It was only due to the losses sustained by not having access to imported food and chemicals to grow their own, that Cuba “went green.”
Going green is another way of saying that Cuba’s agriculture underwent a major overhaul. Land has been redistributed and crops are being cultivated using natural and organic methods with sustainability as the goal. The farmers that we met at both large and small farms (urban and suburban plots are the newest form of community based agriculture) were so proud of their farms and their organic methods. Most of these farmers have developed their own innovative solutions to their climate and terrain challenges. Raised-bed farming, digging wells for water, terracing and covering fragile crops with black, overhead netting to provide shade are just some of the many solutions the farmers have devised. Farming cooperatives are another model that helps farmers to share equipment and help each other.
Posted on Tue, June 21, 2011 by Slow Food USA
A survey of some of the programs around the country that make SNAP benefits worth more when they are used at farmers markets.
By Jesse Appelman
My neighborhood farmers market opened a few weeks ago, bringing the first local greens and asparagus of the season. In sunnier corners of the country, stone fruit and summer squash are already in (not that I’m jealous or anything). But as we celebrate the start of the market season, local produce remains an unaffordable luxury for too many.
The issue is a complex one, of course. It’s also a huge one: 1 in 7 Americans utilizes SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). One way to begin to address the barriers that exist for people to have access to farm fresh food is to make SNAP benefits usable at existing farmers markets. The USDA offers resources to help farmers markets install electronic benefits transfer (EBT) terminals, which let shoppers use food stamps instead of cash.
Some communities and organizations across the country are getting even more creative, establishing programs that make SNAP benefits worth more when they are used at farmers markets.
Here are a few of these initiatives:
Nonprofits, local governments, and private foundations are bringing these benefits to thousands, but with 44 million Americans on food stamps, they need help. Federal funding in the upcoming Farm Bill to expand these programs to the national level, for example, could be one way to bring more healthy food to those who need it, boost business for family farms, keep more grocery dollars circulating in local economies, and build more vibrant communities by making farmers markets more accessible and affordable to all.
What’s your community doing to make farmers markets more accessible? Tell us in the comments.
Posted on Fri, June 17, 2011 by Slow Food USA
It’s called the food movement, but what does that really mean? Students and campus dining workers come together to show us that it’s about building community and making change.
by Hnin Hnin and Kyle Schafer
When Slow Food on Campus and UNITE HERE’s Stir It Up Campaign celebrated National Food Month together with Eat-Ins—part potluck, part protest—across the country, it signaled a small but inspiring convergence of two worlds: sustainable food & sustainable jobs.
Over 300 people participated in 6 Eat-Ins hosted by students and local union members at Northwestern, Wesleyan, and Harvard and Yale (jointly) and by SFOC chapters at Hamilton, Vassar, and Clemson. While each Eat-In was unique, they all shared the goal of building community to create change for good food and food workers—including everyone from the farmers and farmworkers who produce the food to the campus dining workers who serve it up.
It’s not a new idea, but it is just now starting to grab the attention of the on-campus food movement: the fight for sustainable food is tied to the struggle for sustainable jobs. Processed food requires less skill to prepare. Lower skills requirements means lower wages for food workers. So when food preparation consists of switching knives for scissors to open bags of processed food, we have to ask ourselves: what’s the difference between skimping on fair wages and benefits and skimping on fresh, healthy food? By sharing stories over a meal, students and dining workers get a chance to hear how the same broken food system impacts one another on both sides of the counter. They get inspired to change campus food together.
Posted on Fri, June 10, 2011 by Slow Food USA
Earlier this year 60 farmers and farming advocates told Monsanto enough is enough. Here’s the story of the lawsuit, and how one farmer got involved.
While a cow or goat may respect a property fence, pollen knows no such boundaries. Even if a farmer plants a field of non-GMO (not genetically modified) corn, she may still end up with some genetically engineered material on her farm if GMO pollen “drifts” over from a neighbor’s field. Monsanto has a history of taking farmers to court if they’re found to be in possession of patented plant material without permission, even if the plant material came to their fields inadvertently.
But now, tired of living in fear of lawsuits that they claim are unjust, a group of farmers, seed savers, and farm advocates is challenging the agribusiness giant’s right to continue the practice.
We’re inspired by this landmark case and today we’re happy to have more background and perspective to share with you from one of the plaintiffs, Tom Willey. Tom is an organic farmer in Madera, California and a Slow Food USA regional governor. Here are some highlights from our conversation about why this case matters to him, to his fellow farmers, and to consumers in general.
What is your role in the lawsuit? Why did you decide to get involved?
There are too many people in the agricultural community being picked off one by one over this issue of their crops being contaminated by genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Everyone on the suit is potentially liable to be sued by Monsanto. The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) initiated this suit to deny Monsanto the right to sue farmers for being inadvertently contaminated with GMO genes.
If you stand by and watch your neighbors being abused and don’t do anything to back them up, there may not be anyone there to help you. It’s very difficult for individual farmers to defend themselves from legal onslaughts from Monsanto so we thought we best go after defending the whole farming community as a group. Luckily PUPBAT has the resources to help us make that happen and hopefully we’ll prevail.
Posted on Wed, May 04, 2011 by Slow Food USA
While many of us have become more conscious about the impacts of our personal food choices, we can’t fix the broken food system simply by changing what’s on our plate.
This post is based on the upcoming book Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All
by Oran Hesterman
A Broken Food System
Our food system is failing many of us. Originally designed to produce abundant food at low cost, it now destroys some of what we hold most precious—our environment, our health, and our future.
While many of us have become more conscious about the impacts of our personal food choices, we can’t fix the broken food system simply by changing what’s on our plate. The answer lies beyond the kitchen: it relies on our willingness to be fair food “solutionaries” in our communities, in the institutions where we work, and with policy makers.
Beyond Your Kitchen
This is a moment when you can make a difference if you harness your voice, beliefs, passion, and resources to promote a fair and healthy food system. If you are ready to participate in creating a fair food future beyond your own kitchen, one place to start is in your community.
To read the rest of this post and learn about shifting institutional purchasing power as well as ways to get involved in food policy change, click here.
Posted on Mon, April 18, 2011 by Jerusha Klemperer
After months of planning and planting, a fleet of 25 Truck Farmers across the country are about to take to the road. One snag! Not enough trucks.
by Hnin Hnin
Some farmers have thousands of acres of land. Some farmers have a few. Truck Farmers have a pile of dirt in the back of a pickup truck. Truck Farm is a simple concept with a big impact. It’s a mini-mobile farm, an edible exhibit, and the focus of a documentary coming out this winter. What exactly can you do with a 4x8 bed of soil and seeds on wheels? Add an ambitious farmer with the passion to teach kids about growing and eating healthy food, and you’ve got one of the coolest urban agriculture projects around. That’s why Slow Food USA has partnered up with Truck Farm to recruit some of the freshest new urban farmers in town.
After months of planning and planting, a fleet of 25 Truck Farmers across the country are about to take to the road, popping up at schools, camps, street fairs, outdoor concerts, and anywhere else large groups of youth congregate. They’re revved up and ready to go…
BUT there’s one snag—7 of the 25 farmers don’t have a truck! Meet Cate Brennan, a student and leader of Slow Food University of Rhode Island. With your help, she and her group can become some of the youngest Truck Farmers on the fleet.
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.