What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Mon, April 26, 2010 by Intern
by intern Christine Binder
Since September 2009, Slow Food members and supporters have sent over 111,000 letters, emails, and petition signatures to Congress in support of healthier school food. At Summit Academy Youngstown Community School in Youngstown, Ohio, students wrote letters and mailed them to Senator Sherrod Brown. Recently, one of Sen. Browns representatives responded with a visit to the school. Barbara Pagani, a teacher at Summit Academy, told us the story of his visit:
Max Blachman, assistant to Senator Sherrod Brown, visited Summit Academy Youngstown Community School on Monday, March 29, 2010. When he called to set up the meeting, he said he had received our very sweet series of notes and was calling to introduce himself. He asked if he could visit and sit down to meet the students behind the letters. He said he would like to close the loop on our outreach to the Senator. When he arrived at our building, the students gave him a warm welcome and Mr. Blachman was warm right back!
Mr. Blachman gave a great talk about democracy and how we had just become involved in our countrys direction by contacting a Senator. He did a great job of explaining the way the government works and what it can do for the students. He took a look at the food we were having for breakfast and politely declined. Mr. Blachman answered about 50 questions from the students. He used words that even the youngest student could understand. He took the time to walk outside and look at our school garden. Mr. Blachman was so warm and friendly that our students came away with the idea that representatives from our government are cool. It was an assembly that our students will never forget.
Contacting Congress about school lunches is a great way for kids (and adults) to make their voices heard on an issue where their health and their futures are at stake. Congress is set to pass a Child Nutrition Bill this year, which means we have a short window of opportunity to encourage legislators to invest in healthier food, strengthen nutrition standards, and support Farm to School programs.
Posted on Fri, April 23, 2010 by Gordon Jenkins
The Child Nutrition Bill thats currently moving through the U.S. Senate would add six cents to the amount that schools receive from the USDA for each school lunch. If youre wondering if these few extra pennies would make any difference, heres a helpful PDF you can download. The school food service company Revolution Foods put it together in order to illustrate the cost of healthy school food.
For example, an increase of ten cents can provide:
*1/4 cup of broccoli
*1/4 cup of freshly cut carrots
*1/4 cup of freshly cut celery
Not too much. Especially not in the midst of what Jamie Oliver is calling Americas darkest moment in health, i.e. the child obesity epidemic.
If you think we can do better than six cents, write a letter to your legislators urging them to fully fund school lunch when Congress passes the Child Nutrition Bill this year.
Posted on Thu, April 15, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Debra Eschmeyer
When President Obama established a “Presidential task force on childhood obesity” in February, Grist’s Tom Laskawy wondered whether our nation’s first federal food policy council had quietly sprung into being. In a food policy council, the key stakeholders of a region’s food system come together to assess the current food situation and envision ways it might be improved. Food policy councils are a growing phenomenon at the state and municipal level, but such a thing had never existed before at the national level. Does it now?
Well, last week I had the honor of attending the new task force’s White House Childhood Obesity Summit, and it certainly had the flavors of a food policy council: an array of food-policy players across agencies gathered to discuss a key symptom of a food system gone off the rails: childhood obesity.
The task force was charged with developing and submitting to the President in 90 days an interagency plan that “details a coordinated strategy, identifies key benchmarks, and outlines an action plan.” As part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! campaign, the task force is engaging both public and private sectors with the primary goal of helping children become more active and eat healthier within a generation, so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight.
Feeding our children better may look at first glance like a softball issue for the first lady; but the Ms. Obama is actually in the opening stages of what looks like a long and complicated fight. but as Time put it:
“If this sounds like a political fight, well, it is. Michelle Obama may be tilling nonpartisan ground with her vegetable garden and child-obesity program, but food has long been political. From soda taxes to corn subsidies, food is about health care costs, environmentalism, education, agriculture and class.”
[to read the rest of this post, go to Grist, by clicking here.
Debra Eschmeyer is an Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy Food & Society Fellow and the communications and outreach director of the National Farm to School Network, which is a program of the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College. While she continues her passion for organic farming on her fifth-generation family farm in Ohio, she currently plows with her pencil from Washington, DC. ]
Posted on Mon, April 05, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Jackie Fortin
On March 3-4, Slow Food Wisconsin Southeast member Martha Davis Kipcak accompanied a small delegation to Washington DC to speak to Wisconsin legislators about securing healthy food for the citys 60,000 school-age children.
A Community Food Systems Advocate and the trip coordinator, Kipcak headed to Washington with Will Allen, CEO and founder of Growing Power, Kymm Mutch, Director of School Nutrition Services for Milwaukee Public Schools, and Emmanuel Pratt, a doctoral candidate in urban planning from Columbia University.
Our goal was to put legs on Michelle Obamas Lets Move campaign, she said. We called ourselves Lets Move Milwaukee.Ҕ
Over the two days, the group met with Sen. Herb Kohl, Sen. Russ Feingold, Rep. Gwen Moore, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Janey Thornton, and two of her colleagues, The NEA Foundation and a Department of Energy representative.
At first, Kipcak didnt think she was fit for the task, but she said the process ended up being simple and empowering.
The chance to talk to staffers, elected officials, and government leaders, for me, reinforced the notion that the real insight on the subject of a sustainable food system is with the people, she said. Thats you and me: folks on the ground every day producing, shopping, preparing and eating.
Kipcak said she would encourage other Slow Food chapters to engage in face-to-face conversations with their legislators, especially if they do so as a coalition with other community partners.
The message is stronger if it comes from a team, and its a better use of everyones time, she said. Its all about building authentic relationships with those that are on the ground doing the work.
According to Kipcak, Activism in some ways kind of scares people because they have this idea that they have to beat their chests, wave their hands and be on the nightly news.
Instead, she said, it is about speaking up, and being informed, mindful and inquisitive. I think more of us are activists than we think.
Posted on Thu, April 01, 2010 by Gordon Jenkins
From Slow Food Chicago
The organizations Slow Food Chicago, Green City Market and Common Threads teamed up earlier this month to hand-deliver 65 letters from grade school students to the Chicago office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, asking the Senator to invest in the students education and well-being by passing a strong Child Nutrition Bill that help schools serve healthier food. In their letters, students asked for more broccoli, more fruit and healthy food at school, and nutritious food that gets you going at recess.
Congress currently gives schools $2.68 for each lunch served, but with child obesity and health care costs spiraling out of control, that level of funding no longer adds up. As Congress works to update the Child Nutrition Bill next month, the students and the organizations are asking Congress to invest in healthier school lunches.
All of us understand that this is not just about dollarsits about SENSE, Slow Food Chicago Board Member Amy Cox said. How can we collectively work together to make sensible changes for the sake of our future generations wellness?”
At the meeting, Cox made a salad of Chicago lettuce, Illinois walnuts and tarragon, Michigan apples and Wisconsin cheese to show that local, fresh food can be quick, inexpensive, healthy and delicious. In contrast, she and Sara Gasbarra of Green City Market and Kurt Lewis and Courtney Treutelaar of Common Threads presented photos of typical school-lunch fare, including a burger served with fries and chocolate milk, a box of pizza swimming in cheese, and a rib in a puddle of greasy red sauce.
The meeting was positive and productive, and an exciting starting point for future discussions, Cox said. Senator Durbins staff members enjoyed the salad and commented that it was one of the best meetings theyve had with community members.
To follow Slow Food Chicagos lead and join the campaign to help schools serve healthier food, check out the Time for Lunch Campaign.
Photo: at Senator Durbin’s Office. Photo credit Kurt Lewis of Common Threads.
Posted on Thu, March 25, 2010 by Gordon Jenkins
Yesterday, the Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously approved its bill to update child nutrition programs (the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act). The bill will now go to the Senate floor at a date to be determined, no earlier than mid-April.
The committee made no major changes, though we were excited to see Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas increase funding for Farm to School programs to $40 million (inching closer to our goal of $50 million over five years). The bill also strengthens nutrition standards for all the food sold at school, effectively kicking junk food out of school vending machines. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio passed an amendment for an organic food pilot program to get more organic food into school meals, though the amendment doesnt yet have funding.
Overall, the bill invests $500 million per year in child nutrition programs, which falls short of the $1 billion per year proposed by President Obama in order to help schools serve healthier food. Senator Lincoln was hopeful about funding, however, saying:
“I am committed to working to identify additional resources for this legislation…. After reporting this bill I look forward to working with my colleague Senator Baucus and the leadership in the Senate to identify additional funding.”
Funding for healthier food will be paid for by offsets in other parts of the federal budget. Currently, the Child Nutrition bill makes a cut to conservation programs, which is a cut that Slow Food USA does not support particularly when a much larger portion of the budget goes to farm subsidies that support unhealthy processed foods.
On the same day that the committee approved the bill, Slow Food USAs Time for Lunch Campaign surpassed its goal of sending 100,000 letters and petition signatures to Congress. The momentums still growing—click here to learn how you can help out.
Posted on Wed, March 24, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Christine Binder
Yesterday, President Barack Obama signed the health care bill into law. Tucked away inside the massive piece of legislation, there is provision requiring chain restaurants with 20 or more outlets in the United States to list calorie counts on menus, menu boards, and drive-through displays. The law, which affects over 200,000 U.S. restaurants, also applies to vending machines.
In 2008, New York City was the first to mandate calorie counts, and was followed by Seattle, California, and over a dozen other states and municipalities. The Food and Drug Administration will create standards for the labeling, which should come into full effect within the next few years. Soon enough, people all over the country will be able to see the number of calories in an item before they purchase it. According to food policy guru Marion Nestle, calorie labeling has a second positive effect: it motivates fast food and chain restaurants to provide lower-calorie offerings.
For more information see Nestle’s blog, Food Politics.
Posted on Mon, March 22, 2010 by Gordon Jenkins
Last week, Slow Food Denver volunteer Andrew Nowak had the opportunity to sit down with one of Senator Michael Bennets staff members in D.C.
In the meeting with Senator Bennets staff, Andrew talked about his nine years of work coordinating Slow Food Denvers Seed to Table School Garden Program. He also encouraged the Senator to help schools serve healthier food by passing a strong Child Nutrition Act and to include legislation to support purchases of local food through Farm to Cafeteria initiatives.
After, Andrew had a few words of encouragement for other Slow Food leaders:
For someone who participated in this arena for the first time, I do feel closer to the process and have learned quite a bit of what goes on. I can’t say that I will become a total political junkie after this experience, but I am a more informed voter. I think you should encourage other Slow Food leaders to reach out and connect with their representatives on this issue.
Well said. Contacting your legislators staff is an opportunity to become someone on whom the staff relies for advice and information. Its a particularly good idea if your Senator is on the Agriculture Committee, because theyll begin marking up the Child Nutrition on March 24.
To learn more about Slow Food Denvers work with local schools, check out what Andrew had to say in this recent article on INDenverTimes.com.
Posted on Fri, March 19, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Julia Landau
Over 100 school food service directors, community activists, and government agency partners will convene at the second Annual Meeting of the organization School Food FOCUS in Chicago on March 25-27, 2010.
School Food FOCUS supports the nations largest urban school districts in their efforts to procure more healthful, more sustainably produced and regionally sourced food. FOCUS was developed in response to a call by urban school districts to transform the quality of school food. The organization is also driven by a recognition that improving the meal service in large school districts with major purchasing power can go a long way towards improving the food system nationwide.
The keynote speaker of next weeks conference is Jan Poppendieck, author of the new book Free For All: Fixing School Food in America (We reviewed it on this blog last month). The meeting will also feature the first Real School Food Showcase - a selection of carefully chosen chicken, whole grain and other food products available for institutional purchasing that strive to meet FOCUS criteria for more healthful, local, and sustainable.
The meeting will highlight demonstrated successes in sourcing local and nutritious school food. There will be a conversation with USDA officials, giving participants the chance to learn more about the new Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food program and the upcoming Childhood Nutrition Act.
This is seriously good timing for talking about school lunch. Senator Blanche Lincoln just introduced her draft of the Child Nutrition Act, and the Agriculture Committee will begin marking it up on March 24. Slow Food USA is asking legislators to invest in healthier food, strengthen nutrition standards and link schools to local farms click here to learn how you can help.
[photo, from Fed up with school lunch]
Posted on Wed, March 17, 2010 by Gordon Jenkins
Today, Senator Blanche Lincoln unveiled her version of the Child Nutrition Act and announced that the Senate Agriculture Committee will begin marking up the bill next week, on Wednesday, March 24.
Lincolns draft boosts funding for child nutrition programs by $500 million per year, and includes stronger nutrition standards and some support for Farm to School programs. She called it a record investment in child nutrition programs, which is technically true but only because Congress has consistently under-funded school meals in every Child Nutrition Act until now. It’s encouraging to see that there’s any new funding, but Lincoln’s draft only has half of the $1 billion proposed by President Obama, which isn’t enough to transform school lunch in a time when nearly 1 in 3 children is obese or overweight.
If your Senator serves on the Agriculture Committee, you have a short window of time to make an impact. Please take three minutes to make a phone call to your Senators office in D.C. and ask them to support:
Helping schools serve healthier food by making the full investment of $1 billion per year for child nutrition programs.
Including $50 million over five years for grants to start Farm to School programs, which link schools to local farms and support the local economy.
You can learn more about Slow Food USAs campaign to help schools serve healthier food at www.slowfoodusa.org/timeforlunch.
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.