What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Fri, November 19, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
Slow Food USA’s position on the current food safety legislation recently passed by the Senate (again) and headed for a House vote.
UPDATE: After hanging briefly in legal limbo because of tax provisions in the bill, the Food Safety and Modernization Act (S 510) was passed by the Senate late last night. You can read about it in The Washington Post by clicking here. It is expected to be voted on byt the House this week. For a blow by blow of what is covered by the bill, you can read Bill Marler’s recap by clicking here.
Many of you in the network have been asking about Slow Food USA"s position on S 510, the Food Safety and Modernization bill that is moving—slowwwwwly—through the Senate. In light of recent large-scale food recalls—such as this summer’s recall of half a billion eggs—such corporate food safety legislation is necessary. However, it is very important that while this regulation needs to crack down on large-scale industrial/corporate bad actors, it must not hurt small scale producers and processors.
That’s why we—with our allies including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition—support the Manager’s Amendment (which as of last night will include the Tester amendment, which makes it more likely to be part of the final bill). To read more about these two amendments and how they can help protect small farms and processors from onerous regulations, click here.
After vigorous debate yesterday, the bill is now on hold until after Thanksgiving. Marion Nestle offers her thoughts/recap here.
Now is a great time to contact your Senator to wish them a safe and delicious Thanksgiving AND pass food safety legislation that includes the Manager’s Amendment. You can add: “We need a food safety bill that cracks down on corporate bad actors without erecting new barriers to more local and regional food sourcing. Size and practice appropriate food safety regulation for small and mid-sized farms and processors is vital to economic recovery, public health, and nutritional wellbeing.”
Go to Congress.org and type in your zip code. Click on your Senator’s name, and then on the contact tab for their phone number. You can also call the Capitol Switchboard and ask to be directly connected to your Senator’s office: 202-224-3121.
Posted on Wed, November 17, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
UPDATE: This bill will be voted on Wednesday Dec. 1. Slow Food USA joins hundreds of organizations around the country in writing a letter to Reps. Miller and Kline strongly urging them to pass the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act immediately.
UPDATE: This bill will be voted on Wednesday Dec. 1.
After one year of hard work on the part of activists, school nutrition directors, parents and politicians to pass improved school lunch legislation, everything seemed hinged to collapse this Fall after the Senate passed a version of the bill that would take money from future food stamp funding.
This move succeeded in splitting the school lunch advocacy community. Some felt that a badly-funded bill was better than no bill at all; others felt that it was crazy to take money from hungry children in order to…. feed hungry children. At that time we asked you to call your House Reps to say “No! Don’t pass a bad bill, we’d rather have no bill at all.”
Now, as Congress people return post-election for what is called their “lame duck session,” urgency mounts and tactics shift. On November 11th Slow Food USA joined hundreds of organizations around the country in writing a letter to Reps. Miller and Kline strongly urging them to pass the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act immediately, express concerns about SNAP funding, and acknowledging the rock-and-a-hard place we’re all in.
In light of how difficult it will be to pass such a significant piece of legislation in the more fiscally-conservative congress, we felt it important to join many of our allies to urge the House to pass the significantly improved legislation despite the current cuts to SNAP. We will fight to return those funds, but we must pass CNR now.
As Rep George Miller said yesterday : “It’s this opportunity or we lose it.”
We have decided that the most important thing right now is to get an improved school lunch bill passed as soon as possible. We feel that our children have waited long enough and that the several improvements in this bill—including more money per child per meal and improved guidelines for food sold outside the lunch line—represent something worth fighting for.
Call Congress to let to let them know that we want the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act (S.3307) passed now, not later. Dial 1-877-698-8228 and enter your zip code to be connected to your Representative.
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 Mon, September 20, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
The Child Nutrition Act expires on September 30th; let’s reach out to our House Reps and urge them to pass this billand reject any efforts to cut funding to other nutrition programs to do it.
For many children, school has been in session for weeks. Lots of things may have changed for them since they broke for vacation—they are taller, older, smarter perhaps. One thing definitely has not changed, and that’s their school lunch.
The Child Nutrition Act expires on September 30th—one year after it was originally supposed to be passed. School lunch advocates, parents and school nutrition directors are all waiting anxiously for Congress to demonstrate its commitment to the health of our nation’s children.
In mid August, right before their break, the Senate passed their version of the bill (Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act), but in a troubling move, they funded it by cutting money from food stamps (SNAP). Call me crazy, but this seems to be the nutritional equivalent of stealing from Peter to pay Paul.
As of Monday, Congress is back in session. That means that in the next 15 days the House must pass its version of the bill, and then Congress must reconcile the two and come up with one final version of the bill. That is a lot to do in a short amount of time. It is imperative that we all reach out to our House Reps and urge them to pass this bill before the deadline and to reject any efforts to cut funding to other nutrition programs to do it.
You have held eat-ins around the country; you have signed our petition declaring your support for real food in schools; you have written and called your legislators—you have been amazing grassroots advocates for this entire reauthorization process. Now we are in the homestretch.
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 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 19, 2010 by Intern
Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack has been defending both Big Ag and small farms in recent Senate hearings, leaving both sides scratching their heads. “I have two sons,” he says, “and I love them both.”
by intern Shauna Nep
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been criticized by some in Big Ag for his promotion of small-scale farmers and local food systems. And yet—he has been passionately defending conventional producers conventional producers recent Senate hearings. As well as small-scale farmers. Some are upset with Vilsack’s centrist attitude, but Vilsack says that his approach embraces all agriculture and is not about choosing sides, “I have two sons,” he says, “and I love them both.”
In his defense of conventional agriculture, Vilsack emphasized the “exciting potential” of using agricultural waste for biofuels, which he has described as the “key to revitalizing the economy.” Vilsack has also asserted that we owe farmers thanks for how little Americans pay for food, saying that while the average American spends about 10% of their income on food, other developed countries pay closer to 25% or 30%. [To listen, click here.]
At the same time, Vilsack continues to strongly defend small and mid-scale farms and local food systems. In an exchange with Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss, Vilsack was asked where production agriculture and commodity crops fit into USDA’s focus on the five pillars for the next farm bill (regional food systems, rural broadband, renewable energy, conservation and ecosystem market incentives). Vilsack responded by acknowledging the importance of global trade markets, but also by defending local food systems:
“It’s also about expanding domestic markets, and creating opportunities. That’s one of the reasons why we are focused on trying to better link local production with local consumption; this is not just about very very small operations. This is about production agriculture. The ability of schools, institutional purchasers of food, to be able access things locally. Sometimes you’d be surprised that there are folks in small communities who are purchasing food from far far away that don’t realize or appreciate what’s being grown and raised in their area. That’s why we’re focusing on trying to rebuild the supply chain with local slaughter facilities and mobile slaughter facilities with storage facilities, also creating job opportunities.” [To listen to Vilsack’s response, click here].
Can Vilsack promote the local food system while still supporting Big Ag? Post your comments below.
Posted on Fri, July 16, 2010 by Slow Food USA
An update on the school lunch bill in the House of Representatives.
Yesterday, the House Committee on Education and Labor, which is tasked with updating the National School Lunch Program, finally passed its Child Nutrition bill (H.R. 5504) by a bipartisan vote of 32 to 13. The bill proposes to establish healthier nutrition standards for school meals, to kick junk food out of school vending machines, and to help schools connect with local farms and plant school gardens. It would also provide a very modest increase (six cents) to the funding schools receive to serve each lunch ($2.68, about a dollar of which goes to ingredients).
While we’re glad to see progress being made, six cents isn’t going to transform a program that’s failing to serve healthy food in the midst of a child obesity crisis.
The Senate Agriculture Committee passed a similar Child Nutrition bill in March. Now that both bills are out of committee, we’re waiting on Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to schedule both the bills for floor debate and pass them as quickly as possible. Child Nutrition programs were supposed to be updated last year, and are currently on a one-year temporary extension. The current legislation expires on September 30, so if House and Senate leaders don’t move quickly, we may see another one-year delay – which means another year of neglecting the health of America’s children.
Posted on Tue, July 13, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
An amazing new video from WHY Hunger exploring the links between climate change and the global food system.
How we farm and eat is simultaneously one of the greatest contributors to climate change and one of its greatest potential solutions. The same global food system that is making us sick, increasing food insecurity, and polluting the environment is also contributing to climate change. Climate change, in turn, is contributing to rising rates of hunger and food insecurity. As much as 1/3 of greenhouse gas emissions come from the food system.
Want to know more about that?
WHY Hunger has released a brand new online film called “The Food and Climate Connection: From Heating the Planet to Healing It,” that highlights the impact of today’s global food system on the climate and how a community-based food movement around the world is bringing to life a way of farming and eating that’s better for our bodies and the planet. Featuring interviews with farmers, community leaders, and sustainability advocates, the film highlights how the industrial food system is among the greatest contributors to global warming and how sustainable farming practices can pose a powerful solution to the crisis.
The movie was done in collaboration with Anna Lappe, author of the recently released “Diet for a Hot Planet,” which also explores this crucial intersection between how we grow and transport our food and how that affects the planet—not to mention how the changes in our environment willl affect the way we grow and transport our food moving forward.
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?
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.