What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Thu, January 14, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
As more foodborne illness outbreaks continue to come to light, there is growing demand to know more about where foods originate. When you buy directly from the producer, i.e. at the farm or at the farmers market, there’s no need for fancy gadgets, but when that isn’t possible, you might be interested in a little help from your phone.
Thanks to Bill Marler’s Food Safety News for the tip about HarvestMark. Kind of reminds me of the microchip you can use to find your pet. So, there’s Locavore—which helps you know what’s in season near you—and now YottaMark, Inc. aims to demystify the process that brings produce to market with an iPhone app called HarvestMark. Now you can use your iPhone to trace the origin of those leafy greens you just bought, or are contemplating buying.
How it works: you buy an item with the HarvestMark sticker with a numeric code on it. Then you can go to their website and enter the code located on the product or, just download the HarvestMark application to your phone to access this information before you decide to buy. Here’s what you learn:
which farm was this product grown in
when was it picked
how long it has been in storage
who the middlemen were
TMI? When it comes to learning about where your food comes from, the more the better. And maybe it will help generate even more demand for transparency in food production.
Posted on Wed, January 06, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
The fundamental goal of the National School Lunch Program is to ensure that every student has daily access to a healthy meal, regardless of means. But according to a report authored by Colleen Kavanagh of the Campaign for Better Nutrition, the cost of keeping competitive foods (on-campus vending machines and school stores) in the lunchroom is undermining that goal.
Typically, school administrators allow vending machines and fast food stores on campus because they generate revenue for under-funded school programs. But Ms. Kavanaghs report found that many schools are losing revenue on competitive food sales and are borrowing money from the school lunch program in order to offset those losses.
In other words, the cost of keeping Round Table Pizza in the lunchroom is preventing some schools from buying fruits and vegetables.
Congress plans to renew child nutrition programs in early 2010, and strengthening nutrition standards for competitive foods is on the agenda. Its also one of the policy goals of Slow Food USAs Time for Lunch Campaign, which is mobilizing support for helping schools serve real food for lunch.
Posted on Tue, January 05, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
Some people want to be told what to eat. Ever get asked about the Slow Food diet? I do. Countless times Ive explained that there is no slow food diet, that its not meant to be a dogmatic philosophy. But this doesnt stop well-intentioned people from wanting someone to spoon feed them a rubric by which they can figure out what the heck to eat. People, it seems, are overwhelmed and confused.
On The Daily Show the other night, Jon Stewart asked Michael Pollan to distill the 64 rules from his new book Food Rules, down to one simple statement. Eat food, Pollan replied with a smile. They both chuckled.
Some might wonder: if its that simple, why does Pollan keep popping out books like this? Why write a short, radically pared down book (his words) full of rules? As he explains in the intro, the 64 rules are basically 64 short roads back to eat food. This book is clearly intended for the overwhelmed and confused folks, not for Pollans faithful readers and acolytes who, by now I presume, are starting to understand the larger picture of our food system.
Pollan is the master of communication, and he somehow manages to produce a list that is decidedly not dogmatic, full of cultural expressions rather than scientific ones. Many are retreads, i.e. if you read Omnivores Dilemma and In Defense of Food, you wont find much new to chew on here. But this book has great potential to reach a broader audience. It is, as Jon Stewart described it, fun-sized. Its small, easy to palm, and easy to understand. Its organized into three sections that act as tiers of engagement: section 1 tells you what to eat (food, remember?). Once youre eating that way, section 2 can help you figure out which foods. Finally, section 3 can tell you how to eat themand chew isnt an exaggeration. A bunch of them come down to chewing and it helps you realize just how far many Americans have traveled from the whole process we call eating.
Posted on Tue, December 29, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
I just wrote the Department of Justice a long email detailing how, as a consumer, I am affected by corporate control of the food supply. Now it’s your turn. Your voice absolutely matters: they are looking to hear from “average citizens.” Like you. Like me! This is our chance to tell them what’s wrong.
For more details, click here to see our post from last week.
(Many thanks to the US Food Crisis Working Group who have put together sample letters and more topic ideas at www.usfoodcrisisgroup.org)
Posted on Thu, December 03, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Intern Alaine Janosy
After spending over an hour speaking with Maureen Marinkovich and Linda Degnan Cobos, chapter leaders of Slow Food Land and Sea, I wanted to jump on a plane to San Juan Island and become a member of their chapter; their passion and enthusiasm was infectious!
Living in a small island community, both Maureen and Linda are acutely aware of how decreases in biodiversity negatively impact their community, and therefore they focus a lot of their events and activities around the importance of a biologically diverse food supply.
Maureen and her husband Matt are fishermen by trade so they have a vested interest in maintaining the health of the waters around San Juan Island and the wild salmon that live in those waters. As soon as we started talking about salmon, Matt jumped on the phone to tell me how salmon farming affects local wild salmon stocks. Fish farms are breeding grounds for sea lice. These lice infest the water that newly hatched wild salmon must pass through since most fish farms use open net cage systems. The young salmon lack scales and other natural defenses that allow adult salmon to combat parasitic sea lice, so many of them die. (Matt also sent me this illustrative video produced by Watershed Watch.) Salmon stocks are so low this year that Maureen and her husband will not be fishing for sockeye in the Puget Sound. To raise awareness about the salmon situation, Matt leads filleting demonstrations in the community and with the Land and Sea Slow Food Youth Club, demonstrating how to properly fillet one of his fresh-caught wild salmon and teaching people about the threats to wild salmon. As always, a threat to wild salmon is more than just a threat to one natural resource, it is a threat to the entire ecosystem. Depletion of wild salmon affects the plants and animals that rely on them for food, the native people for whom the salmon are not only a food source but also a source of tradition, and the livelihood of commercial fishermen.
Posted on Mon, November 16, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by SFUSA President, Josh Viertel
Jonathan Safran Foer and I hold nearly the same beliefs about eating meat. That said, I have a freezer full of goat necks, marrow bones, and pork belly, and he decidedly does not. You see, I eat meat and Jonathan doesn’t.
There is a simple and true notion underlying Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals: people should eat according to their values. Foer’s argument basically goes like this: Everyone has values. Apply your values to the choices you make about food. Sure, everyone’s values are different, but the truth is anyone’s values will do. The problems with food and farming—in particular farming and eating meat—aren’t caused by people holding the wrong values; they are caused by people not applying the values they hold. I agree with him.
[to read the rest of this article, please go to the Huffington Post, where it was first posted]
Posted on Wed, November 04, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Emily Stephenson
The USDA is preparing to implement new legislation soon that will allow slaughterhouses with 25 or fewer employees to ship meat across state lines. At first the news seem innocuous, but it is in fact very exciting for both small farmers and those who support them.
The groundwork for this bill was laid out under the 2008 Farm Bill, which set aside 5 percent of USDAs business and industry loan guarantee program for local food production, providing the initial building blocks for the Know Your Farm Know Your Food initiative. Deputy USDA Secretary Kathleen Merrigan credits Congress with providing the initial impetus for the program, though she herself deserves quite a bit of credit too.
“Restoring the link between consumers and local producers will not only open new income opportunities for small farmers and generate wealth that will stay in rural communities, it will also expand access to healthy, fresh, and locally produced food,” said Merrigan.
Know Your Farmer Know Your Food was launched in September of this year, and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack hopes the $65 million program will begin a national conversation to help develop local and regional food systems and spur economic opportunity. By connecting local consumers with their local food producers, local wealth stays in local economies, and rural communities get revitalized. The money has been available in previous years, but the program aims to create a one stop shop for local food issues. And while the initiative does nothing to address the practices of industrial agriculture, its great to see small and local getting such well-deserved attention and support.
The news surrounding state-inspected slaughterhouses is particularly groundbreaking. Currently, 27 states operate meat or poultry inspection programs, and FSIS (Food Safety Inspection Services) confirmed that the state programs requirements are “at least equal to” those under the federal meat and poultry products inspection acts. For these programs, FSIS provides up to 50 percent of the state’s operating funds, as well as oversight and enforcement. State-inspected establishments that are not selected for the voluntary program, including state-inspected establishments with more than 25 employees, will remain eligible only to sell and ship their products within their state.
Posted on Mon, November 02, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Food Inc., the movie that caused quite a stir earlier this year by exposing the shocking truth about the food we eat, was released today on DVD and Blu-Ray. As we previously highlighted on this blog, Slow Food USA and many of its chapters were intimately involved in helping to promote and pre-screen this film to shed light on how our food supply is controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, worker safety and our own environment.
What were the reactions of audience members to this film? What were your own thoughts as you watched it? What should we be doing to continue to push big Ag to change their ways? How can we help ensure sustainable farming (and growing, processing, distribution) practices become the norm rather than the exception? Share your thoughts in the comments section of this post.
The DVD release also contains some additional footage and news coverage that you may not have seen around the time the film was released, including:
Celebrity Public Service Announcements
ABC News Nightline You Are What You Eat: Food With Integrity
The Amazing Food Detective and Snacktown Smackdown: Stay Active and Eat Health
Also, n.b.: The Center for Ecoliteracy has published a Food, Inc. Discussion Guide, designed a classroom resource for grades 9 to 12.
The 102-page guide provides questions and activities about the films themes, including health, sustainability, animal welfare, and workers rights. It is designed to help high school students make more thoughtful choices about food and participate in a meaningful dialogue about food and food systems.
Posted on Mon, November 02, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Heather Teige
The first of Slow Food on Campus’ three-part event series focusing on good, clean, and fair kicked off October 24th. Slow Food on Campus (SFOC) chapters participated in, and coordinated on-campus events to help raise awareness of the “clean” part of Slow Food USAs mission. Our SFOC chapters supported 350.orgs International Day of Climate Action and were a part of the lively patchwork of creative and thoughtful events that advocated for better climate change policy (one that caps CO2 emissions at 350 parts per million).
Slow Food on Campus chapter efforts were part of more than 5,200 registered events around the globe; from these events, over 19,000 photos have been submitted and uploaded to 350.org. The incredible breadth of diversity found in these photos, whether it be where the photo was taken, or the personal thoughts on climate change that the photos express, is inspiring. The sheer number of people involved is a testament to the societal shift that has occurred in recent years and stands as proof of the commitment people are ready to make to help encourage better climate change policy.
Posted on Mon, October 26, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Emily Stephenson
For many people, going to the grocery store has become an overload of choices and information. Theres fat-free, low-sugar, free-range, organic, added vitamins, fair-trade and natural, just to name a few of the confusing labels. As the Smart Choices program has been put on hold, and we no longer have to consider Froot Loops and spinach in the same category.
But according to the New York Times, the Swedish government is the first to attempt to make environmentally responsible shopping easier for its citizens. In the pilot program, certain products will receive a total carbon emissions amount based on calculations that take into account fertilizer, fuel for harvesting machinery, packaging and transport. For example a box of oatmeal reads: Climate declared: .87 kg CO2 per kg of product. Products also can get a general seal of approval from the government that takes into account growing conditions or harvesting practices. Under the new system, carrots pass, and so do beans and chicken, but not fish, tomatoes, cucumbers or beef.
The new initiative has been eye opening. Not only in terms of Swedens environmental ambitiousness (according to the article, Sweden has been a world leader in finding new ways to reduce emissions. It has vowed to eliminate the use of fossil fuel for electricity by 2020 and cars that run on gasoline by 2030). But also for producers and consumers. The Swedish burger chain Max discovered that 75 percent of its carbon footprint was created by the meat it served. And since the emissions counts started appearing on the menu, the sale of climate-friendly foods have risen 20 percent.
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.