What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Fri, October 01, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
Late Wednesday night the House extended the current Child Nutrition Act to avoid passing the Senate’s inferior version, leaving school lunch advocates flummoxed.
For the past few weeks we had been pushing the House to pass their version (instead of the Senate’s) of the child nutrition bill, and to do it as quickly as possible.
Taking money from SNAP (food stamps) to pay for school lunch—as the current Senate version does—is clearly not a good idea. Also not a good idea? Keeping the current bill for two more months when school food directors could really use the improvements (and extra 6 cents per child per meal) that would come with both versions of the new bill.
Which is what the House did late Wednesday night : extended the current Child Nutrition Act to avoid passing the Senate’s inferior version, leaving school lunch advocates flummoxed wondering whether to cheer the fact that cuts won’t be made to SNAP, or jeer the fact that our children have been left in the lurch.
First Lady Michelle Obama is frustrated with Pelosi and others who stalled the bill. School nutrition directors are frustrated that they will continue to go without the reimbursement increase; parents and advocates are concerned that junk food will continue to be unregulated.
Talk about a lose-lose situation.
The current extension brings us forward 2 months—at which point we’ll push the House to remain true to its convictions and pass a better child nutrition bill and do it with funding that doesn’t rob Peter to pay Paul.
Posted on Thu, September 16, 2010 by Slow Food USA
Watch our latest video telling the story behind the egg scandal, and sign the petition calling for food safety.
by Slow Food USA President Josh Viertel
This article was first posted on The Atlantic Monthly’s Food Channel
When I speak to groups of people, I urge them to know the story behind their food, and for that story to be one they can be proud of. Last month’s recall of nearly a half a billion eggs has pulled back the curtain on industrial egg production and shown many Americans the story they never knew about how their eggs get onto their plates. It’s not a story eaters can be proud of, nor is it one the farmer can be proud of, nor is it one our food regulatory agencies can be proud of.
In fact, there are so many unpleasant realities in this story, that we still don’t know exactly which elements contributed to the presence of salmonella—cramped cages, mouse droppings, dead insects, chicken feed containing chicken bone meal. But it’s not just a story about eggs, of course.
Over the past year the USDA and the Department of Justice have been holding anti-trust workshops all over the country, examining how consolidation is affecting our agricultural system. They have listened to hog farmers, cattle producers, dairy farmers in an attempt to understand what this means for small-mid sized farmers and ranchers, and what this ultimately means for the consumer.
When half a billion eggs get recalled, consumers are rightfully scared and wonder what their alternatives are. For most people, there isn’t one; when only a handful of companies control the majority of the market, it means that when disease strikes, and spreads, there aren’t many places to turn. People in all 50 states eat eggs, but 50% of our eggs are produced in only 5 states. The same week that the egg recall was announced, there was a beef recall. And we all remember recent widespread spinach and peanut recalls.
IIn each story there have been similar narrative elements: large companies trying to get away with as much as they can, even if it means selling consumers product they know is contaminated; ineffective communication about violations between FDA and USDA; repeated bad actors allowed to stay in business; rapid and far-reaching spread of the product, making it challenging to recall all of it effectively; sick consumers and sometimes, tragically, dead ones.
The Department of Justice is starting to learn the story, and consumers are starting to learn too. The next step will be for government and individuals alike to demand a system that respects farmers, respects the environment, and respects the health and safety of consumers. A great starting point is communication—let’s demand that the FDA and the USDA talk to each other to make sure that bad actors are held accountable and forced to clean up their act before contaminated food makes its way to our tables.
Posted on Wed, September 15, 2010 by Intern
Thanks to the work of the faculty and students of Avoyelles Charter Public School, Slow Food Avoyelles, and the wider community, a once-empty space has been transformed into a vibrant and lively Edible Schoolyard.
by intern Claire Brandow
Between a line of trees and the softball field at the Avoyelles Charter Public School in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana, is an abundant garden. Cauliflower, lettuce, and shallots grow. Corn, squash, and beans grow together as the “three sisters.” Sunflowers and rose bushes represent the flower population here, and a few fruit trees mark the beginning of an orchard. It’s hard to believe that just over a year ago, this space was an empty field. Thanks to the work of the faculty and students of Avoyelles Charter Public School, Slow Food Avoyelles, and the wider community, the once-empty space has been transformed into a vibrant and lively Edible Schoolyard. From seeds-and-dirt to fork-and-plate, the 700 students of ACPS are now engaging with their food from many different aspects.
In August 2009, after approval from school director Julie Durand, Paige Rabalais and Polly Boersig, officers of Slow Food Avoyelles, began the work to turn the space into the impressive program it is today. Community donations of time, labor, and resources resulted in the construction of a shed that serves the dual purposes of tool storage and outdoor instruction. Next, a winter of “lasagna gardening” helped to ready the space for planting. In “lasagna gardening,” a cover crop is planted over a thick layer of compost in one quarter of the garden. The planted quarter is then rotated over the entire garden, depositing vitamins and nutrients into the soil.
The latest facet to the students’ food education is the addition of a kitchen to the curriculum. Painted in vibrant hues and stocked with Anolon cookware donated by the company as part of its “Creating a Delicious Future” initiative, students are now learning to cook what they’ve grown in the garden. Cushaw, a squash favored by local Cajun traditions, was recently given a few culinary treatments. It was baked with butter and honey, pureed for soup, and the seeds were roasted for a snack. The students have created many other delicious dishes like fluffy omelets, fresh squeezed orange juice, okra fritters, and even an herbed gazpacho with homemade garlic croutons.
Posted on Thu, August 12, 2010 by Slow Food USA
A Slow Food USA member writes about her experience teaching kids to garden as a means of diabetes prevention.
By Rebecca Kline, Slow Food USA member and part of the Fair Haven Community Health Center‘s Diabetes Prevention Program
|The Diabetes Prevention Program is a family-based initiative. Participants often bring their children to the work (play) alongside them in the garden!|
I pause my assault on the weeds to watch Mercedes who, in quiet opposition, folds her weeds into a baggie laced to her hip. She explains that in a tea, these leaves suppress nausea. Mercedes’ knowledge of the medicinal uses of plants is vast, even on soil 3,000 miles from her native Mexico. Ironically, her diet, consisting of affordable bodega-bought goods: $1/1 can soup or $2/50 corn tortillas, etc., has devastated her health.
Later that morning, as we take a well-deserved water break, Lucy tells me why she is participating in the Diabetes Prevention Program’s Lifestyle Intervention. Tears plow through the sweat and dirt that cover her face, almost in preparation for the story. When diabetes claimed all of her mother’s ten toes, Lucy’s interest in living diminished. She shut herself up, drew the curtains, and decided to be sad. It was easy for her to gain weight. Before long, Lucy’s health lined up perfectly with that of her mother’s.
If they do nothing to interrupt its development, Mercedes and Lucy will both have diabetes within ten years. They are two of an approximately 57 million people (or one in four above 20 years old) in the United States whose elevated blood glucose levels constitute a significant risk for developing the disease (US Department of Health and Human Services).
Mercedes and Lucy are also two of 155 Hispanic women who have participated in a 12-week intensive Diabetes Prevention Program Lifestyle Intervention (LI) run by the Fair Haven Community Health Center. This program was initially supported by the Connecticut Health Foundation and is now part of a larger research evaluation in partnership with Yale Center for Clinical Investigation and funded by the Donaghue Foundation. It is modeled after the National Institute for Health (NIH) groundbreaking clinical research study that proved that “millions of high-risk people can delay or avoid developing type 2 diabetes by losing weight through regular physical activity and a diet low in fat and calories.” According to the study, individuals with pre-diabetes can reduce their risk of going on to develop diabetes by 58% with a modest 5-7% weight loss. The clinicians at the Fair Haven Community Health Center modified the NIH’s lifestyle intervention program to meet the needs of their predominantly Hispanic population in New Haven, Connecticut, where they discovered that an astonishing 40% of Latina women have pre-diabetes.
Posted on Fri, August 06, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
Just when we all assumed that Congress was too busy to talk child nutrition before their summer break, the Senate passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act late today.
Just when we all assumed that Congress was too busy to talk child nutrition before their summer break, the Senate passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act late today. It provides an additional $4.5 billion over 10 years to federal child nutrition programs including the National School Lunch program. The days leading up to this unanimous passage had been full of urgent calls to action—from Michelle Obama in the Washington Post to Senator Richard Lugar in the New York Times.
Does this mean this long road—the battle to get a fully funded and improved child nutrition bill—has finally come to an end? Not yet. The House still has to pass it as well (and then there will be reconciliation, etc.). The clock is ticking however; the bill expires on September 30th and the new funding contained within will be lost if it isn’t reauthorized by then.
The version that passed in the Senate included a bunch of our priorities - more funding for healthier meals, regulations to kick junk food out of school vending machines, and $50 million for Farm to School programs, but it also makes cuts to food stamps in order to pay for them.
This process has now dragged on for nearly a year past its original expiration date—now’s the time to urge your House Rep to help bring this process to a close, which would, as our First Lady said today “bring us one step closer to reaching that goal [of ending childhood obesity].”
UPDATE: Earlier this week there was some concern that the House, in an effort to move speedily before heading off for August recess, might pass the Senate version. Thanks to the 4,000+ of you of you who responded to our call to action with a letter to your Rep urging them, to pass the HOUSE version (the House bill avoids making cuts to food stamps (SNAP) - a move which will impact the children that are the most vulnerable. School lunch should not be funded at the expense of other important food programs). In the meantime, you can still use the link above to write your Rep—urging them to pass the bill before the September 30th expiration.
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.
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.