What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Wed, April 18, 2012 by Slow Food USA
A high school science project becomes a community mission for local food; leads to a cafeteria rooftop greenhouse and the community’s first produce market.
Written by Kate Soto, Slow Food USA member who can also be found at her blog, DomestiKating
Humboldt Park is one of Chicago’s 77 neighborhood areas, just west of trendy Wicker Park. It’s known for its beautiful 207-acre park, as well as its deeply rooted Puerto Rican community. Every June, thousands descend upon California and Division Streets to celebrate the Puerto Rican People’s Parade, where you can buy corn and arepas and any number of delicious foods. Yet, this neighborhood, comprised of a community with strong ties to cuisine, is considered a food desert.
The term food desert has been buzzing around Chicago since Mayor Emanuel declared it one of the key issues of his tenure. Approximately 40 percent of the city lives in a ‘food desert’, characterized by a lack of access to fresh, healthy food and grocery stores. These areas happen to occur exclusively in low-income African-American and Latino neighborhoods—like Humboldt Park.
Long before Mayor Emanuel took office, groups had been exploring the implications of food deserts on health and community. In 2006, Mari Gallagher produced a notable report examining their negative impact on public health. Around the same time, Sinai Urban Health Institute did a study that identified Humboldt Park’s obesity rate as considerably higher than the city average: 50 percent of Humboldt Park’s children were found to be obese.
Posted on Thu, March 29, 2012 by Slow Food USA
By any measure, the local food movement is booming with everyone from Wall Street execs to start up non-profits getting involved. But how can you tell if your food is truly local?
Written by Jeffrey Gangemi, Director of Partnerships and Communications at FarmPlate.com
The numbers clearly show that demand for local food is growing. According to the USDA, the market for local food “sales to intermediaries, such as local grocers and restaurants, as well as directly to consumers through farmers markets, roadside stands and the like” could reach $7 billion this year, up from about $5 billion in 2008.
There are lots of ways to support the local food movement. Of course, starting a farm, investing in sustainable food businesses – even buying organic – all require relatively significant financial resources.
Increasingly – and particularly through the use of technology – people from all sorts of backgrounds are able to do their part to support the small farmers, artisans and entrepreneurs that are remaking how we eat in this country. Their message is clear: we can all do something to help fix what’s broken about our food system.
At the top of this local food “hierarchy,” there is an growing group of transplants from traditional corporate cultures – Wall Street, for example – who have reinvented themselves through food production.
Posted on Fri, March 23, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Panelists, including Slow Food USA President Josh Viertel, discuss “The Future of Food”, the landmark speech and now book by Prince Charles.
Written by Lizzy Ott, Slow Food USA intern
Earlier this month, Slow Food USA president Josh Viertel participated in a panel discussion on His Royal Highness (HRH) The Prince of Wales’ landmark book, On the Future of Food (see clip below). The book is based on a keynote speech Prince Charles gave at Georgetown University’s 2011 conference, “The Future of Food.” Released in February, the book addresses key issues in moving towards a more effective global food system. Simply put, HRH’s vision is that our food supply needs to resolve world problems rather than create them.
Prince Charles has been advocating a more sustainable approach to agriculture for over 30 years. However, he is committed not only to revolutionizing the way food is produced, but also to making us more aware of our individual relationships to it. And in his speech, he called on the general public to implement their own sustainable models of food production.
Posted on Mon, February 27, 2012 by Slow Food USA
February 27th is Occupy Our Food Supply day of action. Dr. Vandana Shiva discusses why this day is important and why the “corporate takeover of the food system” will have “irreversible consequences” for all people.
Written by Dr Vandana Shiva, NAVDANYA
Today, Feb. 27, is an Occupy Our Food Supply day of action, a movement focussed on resisting the corporate control of food systems. Dr. Shiva has been one of the main supporters and voices in this movement.
The biggest corporate takeover on the planet is the hijacking of the food system, the cost of which has had huge and irreversible consequences for the Earth and people everywhere.
From the seed to the farm to the store to your table, corporations are seeking total control over biodiversity, land, and water. They are seeking control over how food is grown, processed, and distributed. And in seeking this total control, they are destroying the Earth’s ecological processes, our farmers, our health, and our freedoms.
It starts with seeds. Monsanto and a few other gene giants are trying to control and own the world’s seeds through genetic engineering and patents. Monsanto wrote the World Trade Organization treaty on Intellectual Property, which forces countries to patent seeds. As a Monsanto representative once said: “In drafting these agreements, we were the patient, diagnostician [and] physician all in one.”
They defined a problem, and for these corporate profiteers the problem was that farmers save seeds, making it difficult for them to continue wringing profits out of those farmers. So they offered a solution, and their solution was that seeds should be redefined as intellectual property, hence seed saving becomes theft and seed sharing is criminalized. I believe that saving seeds and protecting biodiversity is our ecological and ethical duty. That is why I started Navdanya 25 years ago.
Posted on Wed, February 08, 2012 by Slow Food USA
2012 is the UN International Year of Cooperatives. To get the word out, the National Cooperative Grocers Association has teamed up with celebrity chef Kevin Gillespie to tell the story of co-op’s across the country in this 13-part video series.
written by Robynn Shrader, CEO of National Cooperative Grocers Association
Every day the food co-op members of National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) celebrate the farmers, the people and the communities that they support, and that, in turn, embrace and sustain the cooperative business model. Food co-ops play a unique role in building local foods systems and vibrant economies.
This year, the United Nations provided a global platform for all co-op enterprises to share their stories by designating 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives. This year is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for food co-ops to raise awareness and celebrate the social and economic contributions of cooperative businesses, as well as help more people across the country discover what food co-ops are all about.
To get the word out, we teamed up with celebrity chef and passionate local foods advocate Kevin Gillespie. Together, we traveled around the country and captured food co-op stories on film to create a 13-part video series airing throughout this year. In the videos, Kevin treks through farm fields and grocery aisles, sharing stories about good food – everything from raising heritage breeds and five-star eggs to urban gardens, aluminum mulch and community-driven food sourcing.
I am excited to share these videos and the international celebration of cooperatives with Slow Food USA. Together, our shared passion for good food and desire to create vibrant and sustainable communities can go a long way toward building a better food system. We hope you will join us in celebrating the International Year of Cooperatives here!
Posted on Wed, January 25, 2012 by Slow Food USA
My favorite veggie burgers have a “no genetically modified ingredients” label, where is this label on the rest of my food? Tell the FDA to ‘Just Label It’
by Slow Food USA Associate Director of National Programs, Angelines M. Alba Lamb
This weekend I sent my partner to the grocery store for the weekly shop. He ventured out in the snow, and in exchange I put the apples in their bowl and the cornbread box in the pantry. As I was putting my favorite box of veggie burgers into the freezer, I noticed a label I’d never paid attention to: “No genetically modified ingredients.” Did all my food have this label? I took the cornbread back out, and read all 6 sides. I learned that if I ate one piece, I would ingest 3 grams of protein. I learned my favorite corn bread used corn flour, corn, and baking soda. But I didn’t learn where the corn came from. Was it genetically engineered, like 80% of all corn grown in the U.S.?
Why didn’t my cornbread have the same label as my veggie burger? Because companies don’t have to disclose genetically modified ingredients. Some do but most corporations don’t. They didn’t disclose any ingredients until later in the 20th century. Cigarettes didn’t get warning labels until 1966, years after evidence was found of their ill health effects. Ingredient boxes and health warnings appeared after people, just like you and I, demanded that their government do everything in their power to protect consumers. Protecting consumers means informing consumers. If you pick up a cigarette, knowing that it can cause cancer, then that is your right. If you choose to eat genetically engineered corn despite the label, then that is your choice. But we don’t have a choice with genetically engineered food.
Just Label It – a national initiative to secure labeling for genetically engineered food- is demanding that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) require all food that is genetically engineered, or made with genetically modified ingredients, be marked like my veggie burgers. They need you and I to add our voices and send a message to the FDA consumers want this labeling. Add your voice by sending a comment to the FDA letting them know how important this issue is to you.
Right now the soymilk smoothie you are sipping on could have been made with genetically modified soy. The alfalfa sprouts topping your salad could have been engineered in a lab. And you have a right to know and a right to choose if you want to put that into your body or feed it to your family. We don’t know yet how genetically engineered food interacts with human bodies. There isn’t enough research. But don’t you want the chance to make that decision for yourself? I sent a comment to the FDA because I want all of my food, including my corn bread, to have the same label like my veggie burgers. Join Just Label It and me and send your own comment.
Posted on Tue, January 24, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Slow Food USA’s president says he is not turning his back on the organization’s roots, but is instead trying to better understand its identity.
by Slow Food USA President, Josh Viertel
When my fiancée, Juliana, and I were farming, we grew the most beautiful produce I have ever seen. I do not mean to brag. It is sort of like being a parent, or a pet owner. Anyone who has grown food with love probably feels that way about the product of his or her labor. We grew 300 varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers, many heirloom varieties, and ingredients for cooking food from so many traditions. We sold them at a farmers’ market in a well-heeled neighborhood, and we charged a lot of money. We did not think twice about charging $16 per pound for salad greens. We knew what work went into it, we knew how good it was, and we knew it was worth it. We sold out. And we made $12,000 a year between the two of us. We thought we were doing pretty well.
When low-income people came to our stand with food stamps, we gave them two or three for the price of one. But something was broken. At $12,000, we had low incomes ourselves, and the only people we could feed had high incomes. I wanted to change the world, and I saw farming as a piece of that work. Fairness for the farmer seemed to mean injustice for the eater. Fairness for the eater seemed to mean injustice for the farmer. How could we simply choose to fight for one, with the knowledge that it undercut the other?
A few years later, I found myself standing in a room filled with about 300 extraordinary people—people working to take on the same paradox that had troubled me as a young farmer. Slow Food USA was putting on an enormous event in San Francisco in the fall of 2008 called Slow Food Nation. It brought the most inspiring artisan pickle makers, charcuterie curers, and bread bakers together with the most committed food activists and farmers. Alice Waters, Carlo Petrini, Wendell Berry, Eric Schlosser, Michael Pollan, Raj Patel, Van Jones, Vandana Shiva, Lucas Benitez, and many, many other heroes of mine were all in the same place, at the same time, to talk about food, farming, and the movement to transform both. Monsanto and Ronald McDonald would have done well to blow up the building.
Posted on Thu, December 15, 2011 by Slow Food USA
2011: a Slow Food USA year in review by Josh Viertel.
by Josh Viertel, President of Slow Food USA
2011 started with a very important question.
In January, we asked President Obama what he was doing to make it easier to feed our kids fruit than Froot Loops. He said Walmart would fix it. You didn’t buy it, and neither did we. So together, we went about fixing it ourselves.
When industrial agribusiness tried to make it a felony to take pictures of farms (so they couldn’t be held accountable for animal abuse) we said, “A good farm has nothing to hide.” And we buried legislators in four states, not just with petition signatures, but with pictures of the incredible sustainable farms that make us proud. The Slow Food “Farmarazzi” saved the day—and the bills died in all four states.
When Fast Food said that it had value for everybody and Slow Food was just for the elite, we proved them wrong. On one day, at more than 5,500 shared meals all over the country, 30,000 of you sat at the table together and took the $5 Challenge, cooking Slow Food for less than fast food. People shared their tips, tricks, recipes, and what made it a challenge. Together, we are taking back the value meal.
And when a handful of congressional leaders tried to sneak past a “secret farm bill” cooked up for the corn and soy lobby, we brought Congress a Recipe for Change, written and signed by over 13,000. No “secret farm bill” was going to slip through on our watch.
We couldn’t have done any of it without your support. And in 2012 we’ve got even more work to do.
2012 is going to be about building change from the bottom up: community by community; farmers market by farmers market; garden by garden. Slow Food’s chapters are building grassroots solutions to a broken food system.
Already, Slow Food chapters have built over 300 school gardens. They reach over 33,000 kids. And they make it happen as volunteers. One inspiring example is Slow Food Miami, where chapter volunteers planted an astounding 63 school gardens in 44 days.
If we can support 650 more leaders like these to make this kind of change in their own communities, we can build more gardens in schools than McDonald’s has franchises!
But, really, we can’t do any of this without the support of the Slow Food community. We’re all in this together.
Posted on Fri, December 02, 2011 by Slow Food USA
Food policy was front in center in November, we recap where we were and where we’re going with the Food and Farm bill.
Now that November has come to an end, it’s hard to forget the ruckus Congress stirred up in the food and farming world—some of it good and some of it bad. Organizations and lawmakers from all ends of the spectrum made sure to voice opinions about how the government should be involved in food and farming. From introducing legislation to help local food economies, to attempting to cut food stamps as part of the Super Committee process, November saw a lot of folks weighing on the future of our food system. Many of you weighed in too, by endorsing our Recipe for Change.
November began with the release of Representative Chellie Pingree and Senator Sherrod Brown’s Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act. Two days later, the National Sustainable Agriculture Committee (NSAC) hosted a farmer fly-in, bringing over 50 farmers, advocates, and scientists from across the country to Washington DC to show support for the bill.
Alex Loud, a fly-in participant and Slow Food Boston chapter leader, describes why the Act is an important step for rebuilding the economy:
Small farms are a growing and increasingly important part of the American economy and the American food system. The Federal government is not doing enough to support them—and indeed in some cases is even hindering their growth. The Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act will, if enacted, start to change this.
The legislation addresses issues from across the board – including rural development, reforms to nutrition assistance programs that will allow food purchase at farmers markets, and boosts to programs that support farmers struggling to obtain a USDA certified organic status.
What more could we ask for than the introduction of a bill like the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act? How about 13,000 supporters of Slow Food USA’s Recipe for Change! Introduced at the end of October on Food Day, the Recipe for Change continued to accumulate signatures in the two weeks leading up to November 17th when names were hand delivered by us to each of the Super Committee member’s DC offices.
In the end, the Super Committee failed to come up with a deficit reduction plan by their November 23rd deadline. This does not mean, however, that your voices were not heard or that the message of the Recipe for Change will not be important for the next big obstacle to come – the 2012 Food and Farm Bill.
November may be over but the fight for better food and farming policy is just beginning. Follow the developing Food and Farm Bill campaigns of these organizations to stay in touch with what is going on and learn how you can get involved:
Posted on Fri, October 28, 2011 by Slow Food USA
Two developments this week indicate that massive congressional budget cuts might not spell disaster for nutrition programs and support for small farmers after all.
In this time of national financial crisis, agricultural funding has been flagged to take a big hit. Two big developments this week indicate that congress is waking up to the potential that regionally focused agriculture holds for job creation, improvements to public health, and economic development.
The first came earlier this week—on Food Day—when Congresswoman Chellie Pingree announced a bill that she plans to introduce to the House: The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act. The bill will provide new kinds of support to farmers growing healthy food; make it easier to use food stamps at farmers markets; and require USDA research to focus less narrowly on genetically modified plants. A companion bill is on its way to the Senate.
Tell your Congressmen to be a part of the Recipe for Change by supporting the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act.
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.