What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Mon, April 28, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
The UN has scheduled a 2-day meeting in Bern, Switzerland, to discuss solutions to the escalating global food crisis. It will surely also be a hot topic of conversation when the Commission on Sustainable Development begins meeting at the UN next week; the main topics up for discussion include rural development, land, biodiversity, and desertification (more on this meeting in the coming weeks, since one of our staffers will be attending).
And over at The Nation, an interesting take on it all, with this sentiment from Wisconsin dairy farmer Jim Goodman:
"So,they finally figured out, after all these years of pushing globalization and genetically modified [GM] seeds, that instead of feeding the world we've created a food system that leaves more people hungry. If they'd listened to farmers instead of corporations, they would've known this was going to happen."
And, over at Grist, some interesting quotes and ensuing comments on the origins of the crisis–origins about which, at this point, we can only educatedly speculate.
Posted on Mon, April 21, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
For those of you who may have just received your copy of the latest Snail magazine, you may have read, with interest, about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers ("Would You Like Some Justice with That?," The Snail, Spring 2008). They were recently the focus of a Senate hearing on working conditions for tomato workers. Eric Schlosser continues to be an outspoken voice in the fight for a fair wage for these tomato workers, trying to highlight that this is a human rights issue (as well as a food/ag/business issue).
Posted on Mon, April 14, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Riots in Haiti, in response to the inflation of food prices, have brought this issue of rising food prices around the world to the front page. Riots such as these have taken place in Egypt, Cameroon, Senegal etc. and are at risk of occurring in 33 more countries, The Wall Street Journal reported today. The IMF Board of Governors is calling for an "integrated response" from the World Bank and the IMF to what has become an untenable situation for many poor countries. Although, as we mentioned in last Tuesday's post, there are several contributing factors to this rise in food prices, everyone seems to agree that the United States' obsession with biofuels is partly to blame.
* This article on WSJ.com is only able to be viewed by non-subscribers for a few more days.
Posted on Tue, April 08, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA staffer Makalé Faber Cullen
This month's Harper's magazine features an excellent article by Nathanael Johnson who takes on the North American black market in raw milk and it's odd bedfellow… high tech "bio-active" dairy.
The defense of the fresh stuff (aka "green top milk") has been a steady, under-the-radar activity and a 20-year Slow Food campaign since the US Food and Drug Administration banned interstate sales of unpasteurized milk in the 1980s. Most of us, in fact, have been raised to believe pasteurization is a good thing. It protects us from salmonella and E-coli poisoning. It prolongs the shelf life of dairy products, which means more people in more places have access to them.
But as Johnson explains, it's not the fresh milk from a Holstein grazing on grass that's producing health threats. It's the other way around. To put it simply, grass-grazing cows eat in a way that allows them to produce milk containing enzymes that are often beneficial to us humans. "Dirty milk," an insider's phrase, comes from modern dairies which, in their clamor for high volume and high profit, use pasteurization as license to be unsanitary, to feed inappropriate food to cattle and engage in other unsavory activities. Ever colorful, Johnson says, "After a century of pasteurization, modern dairies, to put it bluntly, are covered in shit. Most have a viscous lagoon full of fit. Cows lie in it." And with that, Johnson navigates us through the public health thicket of industrial milk production and the volatility of raw milk markets, with regular tours through the anatomy of cattle and how we try to alter it.
The issue is far, far more complex than I've described above and Johnson remains respectably objective. Please read the article. Johnson is an entertaining writer. His piece is reference quality and yet doesn't compromise a bit on good storytelling.
I support the idea of people's right to sell and buy raw milk and raw milk products—often of finer quality since the proteins and sugars haven't been altered by heat. To reference Gil Scott Heron's potent and poignant 1971 release, The Revolution will not be Televised is to commit to taking the investigation and the story a bit further. Slow Food USA's Raw Milk Cheese Producers Association is trying to do just that –change by the producer for the producer.
While thinking about Gil Scott and the fight for justice, I'm reminded of a February post about the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. debacle. Industrial food workers, whether they're in dairies or meat packing plants deserve humane treatment as much as animals do. What's the story on dairy workers forced to put in 19-hour days in these "lagoons?"
Posted on Tue, April 08, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
We here at Slow Food USA have been saying for quite some time now that food in this country is too cheap, and have been urging people to think about the true cost of food. No one could have predicted, though, how quickly food prices would rise around the globe, changing the conversation quite significantly. In the NY Times last week, Kim Severson talked with Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and other sustainable food advocates about this rise and what it could/will mean for the average consumer. The title of the article? "Some Good News on Food Prices."
Good news? Not so fast, say some. Tom Philpott over at Grist took issue with their analysis/predictions and got some good conversation going in his comments section.
Meanwhile, over at Democracy Now, Amy Goodman interviewed Raj Patel, the author of Stuffed and Starved: the Hidden Battle for the World Food System. The title, of course, refers to the paradox of the twin epidemics we face right here in our own country but also around the world: obesity and hunger.
He explains the rising food prices as a "perfect storm:" the combination of last year being a bad year for crops, the rise of interest in biofuels, developing nations eating more meat (which uses much more grain than it would to eat grain directly), and the rise of oil prices. He calls ethanol as an alternative to oil as "madness," and comes down hard on the U.S.' free trade agenda as being partly responsible for the present food riots in the developing world.
Posted on Fri, April 04, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
By Slow Food USA staff member Winnie Yang
In the Spring 2008 issue of the Snail (coming soon to a mailbox near you, if you're a member), Candelario Velazquez describes the struggle of farmworkers in Immokalee, Florida, and the work the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is doing jointly with the Student/Farmworkers Alliance (SFA) to fight the fast food industry's unjust practices. For decades the industry "has used its power and leverage to demand cheap produce, translating directly into lower wages and poorer working conditions for the workers picking that produce."
The Snail article goes on to describe the remarkable successes CIW and SFA have realized, but their work is far from finished. And now, you can help.
SFA's Meghan Cohorst wrote to let us know that CIW has recently launched a petition campaign to urge Burger King to work with them to end sweatshops and slavery in the fields. The campaign is based on a similar one used by 19th-century British abolitionists, who began their movement to abolish slavery with a petition drive. The CIW petition will be delivered to Burger King on April 28.
(photo by Meghan Cohorst)
Posted on Tue, March 18, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Membership Assistant, Julia De Martini Day
"Sin maíz, no hay país!" "Without corn, there is no country!" were the words chanted by the Independent Women's Movement on International Women's Day March 8th in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico as they protested against free trade agreements devastating local agricultural communities and affordable access to staple food items, such as corn.
More and more are attention is brought back to how our increasingly globalized food distribution system is leaving us – whether we are in the USA or in Mexico - with rising food prices, as well as other costs, such as the health and environmental effects of eating and producing food made with chemicals or GMOs. In a New York Times article in February about the rising costs of wheat, even the large multi-national company General Mills said they would have to raise prices, and the article notes that the consequences are stretched wallets at home and abroad.
Both the protests in Chiapas and the article in the NYTimes leave us asking, how can we nourish ourselves and our families with food that is healthy and affordable – or good, clean and fair? How can we build off an increasing awareness of a globalized food system to ensure that the agricultural products inherent to our communities are also made to be staples of the local economies we are working to build?
Posted on Fri, February 01, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
From our friends at Community Food Security Coalition
re: Community Food Projects, which are designed to increase food security in communities, improving the self-reliance of community members over their food needs.
This year's competition for Community Food Project (CFP) grants has been halted by the USDA because of uncertainties about the program's future funding in the Farm Bill. Prior to this recent suspension, over 460 letters of intent had been submitted.
The House version of the Farm Bill provided discretionary - not mandatory - funding, which means that the program must be funded through the appropriations process. The Senate version restored mandatory funding at $10 million annually for years 2008-2012 (double what it received previously).
However, no money for the program was provided in the fiscal year 2008 appropriations bill. USDA decided to halt considerations for 2008 grants because if the House funding prevails in conference or if a new Farm Bill is not passed, CFP will not be funded in 2008.
Your advocacy is critical to restore this decade-long enormously successful program. Millions of dollars are at stake for programs that support access to healthy food for underserved communities and benefit family farmers.
You can help!
Please send faxed letters to and call your House of Representatives member and both Senators and tell them you are very concerned that continued CFP funding is in jeopardy in the Farm Bill.
To reach your Representative and Senators, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
For Representatives, ask him/her to contact:
Chairman Peterson (if a Democrat) or
Rep. Goodlatte (if a Republican)
For Senators, ask him/her to contact:
Senator Harkin (if a Democrat) or
Senator Chambliss (if a Republican).
Posted on Thu, January 17, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Press Release, January 17, 2008
Slow Food International
The political crisis in Kenya is now turning into a food crisis. Some of the areas hit the hardest by violence — among them the Rift Valley, Coast Province, Nyanza Province, Western Province and Nairobi — are considered to be the eastern African nation's 'bread baskets'. They are also the areas in which many of Slow Food's 29 Terra Madre Food Communities are located.
Kenyan John Kariuki Mwangi, a 21-years-old student at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy, is one of the three newly elected vice-presidents of Slow Food International. He received an email from Slow Food's Central Rift Convivium leader Samuel Muhunyu saying that many crops ready for harvest, such as corn, potatoes and peas, are being burnt to the ground by roaming tribal militia, who are also killing livestock for food.
The Terra Madre Communities in Kenya, such as the Farmers of the Arid Areas of Kitui, Cow and Camel Breeders of Nairobi, Potato and Pea Growers of Nakuru in the Rift Valley, Taro Producers of Nairobi, Nettle Growers of the Rift Valley and Indigenous Chicken Breeders of Kilifi in Coast Province, consist of small sustainable farms made up of individual farmers and groups working to preserve local foods and traditions. The fighting is now endangering these farms, the heaviest of it taking place in the Rift Valley, mainly around Molo, Burnt Forest, Eldoret and Kitale, about a five-hour drive from Nairobi.
The fighting is mainly between President MwaiKibaki's Kikuyu tribe, opposition leader Raila Odinga's Luo tribe and the Kalenjin militia in the Rift Valley led by William Ruto. Since 1992 the latter have repeatedly carried out ethnic cleansing, and this time they are doing it under the guise of the rigged elections.
The opposition claim that the December 27 election was rigged. At least 500 people have been killed since then and, according to the International Red Cross, more than 250,000 have been displaced, many left with only the clothes on their backs (though, taking into account families from Kuresoi in Molo, the number could be even higher).
Mwangi, whose father is a small-scale farmer in Molo, in Rift Valley province, says help is needed in two areas. 'First there are the most urgent things: food, shelter, clothing and other basic needs. Schools will be re¬opening next week and children will need uniforms and books. Then, in the long term, people will need help resettling.' He went on to say that long-term aid will involve rebuilding homes, harvesting what is left of crops, replanting new crops where possible and setting up new farming systems.
Slow Food is very concerned about the events of the past days and the safety of everyone in Kenya. It is now working to find a way to help Terra Madre Communities receive the supplies they need to rebuild their lives and continue their work, which is of vital importance for the preservation of traditional foods and sustainable farming methods, as well as the provision of food to local communities.
To read Central Rift convivium leader Samuel Muhunyu's email to John, in which he gives details about Kenya's deterioriating situation, click here.
Posted on Mon, January 07, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Grassroots International, a Boston-based organization that "supports the initiatives of peasants and family farmers, women and indigenous groups to protect human rights to land, water and food," has produced a primer on food sovereignty in partnership with Food and Water Watch.
Understanding that for many people food sovereignty can be a somewhat elusive term, they have produced "Towards a Green Food System," a report that explains the food sovereignty movement's natural alignment with the larger environmental sustainability movement, as well as with food-based movements such as Slow Food. It discusses the main conversational threads from the 2007 Forum for Food Sovereignty, laying out the stakes (the right to sustainably farmed land, the right of a community to control its own seed supply, the right to support small family farms), sharing specific examples from around the world, and making recommendations for individual involvement in the movement.
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.