What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Thu, February 12, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Debra Eschmeyer
As First Lady you have the ability to set the table for what our nations children eat by adding a plank of food justice to your platform. Many ideas have already been sent your way, including starting an organic garden on the White House lawn and appointing a First Farmer. But where should you start?
I request that you make the health of our nations children your platform priority. Especially with two growing girls to nurture and nourish, you must understand that we will only be successful as a nation when all children in our country are healthy and well-fed.
You have the support of the 44th President. The Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, was quoted yesterday in the Washington Post explaining President Obamas goals for the USDA, The vision is, he wants more nutritious food in schools. Vilsack went on to depict the role of local foods in that mission: In a perfect world, everything that was sold, everything that was purchased and consumed would be local, so the economy would receive the benefit of that.
You have a ripe opportunity to make great strides toward that vision with the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which is the federal legislation that establishes the guidelines for our nations school meal programs and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. Every four or five years, theres an opening for all of those concerned with the health of our nations children to evaluate, defend, and improve the federal Child Nutrition Programs. That time is now as the current Child Nutrition Act expires in September 2009.
With at least 35 to 40 percent of childrens daily eating occurring during the school day, a reformed cafeteria could improve the health and increase the capacity to learn for the 30 million children that eat at school 180 days per year.
When you invited Chef Sam Kass into the White House Kitchen, your spokeswoman said he happens to have a particular interest in healthy food and local food. Mr. Kass has spoken out previously on the need to change the school lunch menu by decreasing the high levels of sugar and fat. Hes right.
Posted on Fri, May 30, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA staffer Julia De Martini Day
Last friday afternoon I volunteered for the first time with Harvest Time in Harlem, a Slow Food in Schools program facilitated by Slow Food NYC member and Slow Food USA Convivium Coordinator Yuri Asano. The session's focus was sustainability and part of our activity involved cutting micro-greens directly from baby plants delivered fresh by Hudson Valley Convivium leader Mimi Edelman. After reviewing the ingredients and watching a demonstration on how to get started making pita sandwiches with the fresh arugula and basil, Kai, a 4th grader, spontaneously came up with this song.
Stir it Up
Stir it Up, (stiiiiirrrrrrr it up)
Stir it Up, Stir it up
Vinegar, Oil, Mustard
Salt and Pepper,
Taste it Honey
We gonna use chicken and cut it up
We gonna put it on a plate
That's what's up
We love the earth, you should too
Take a bite and you'll love it toooooooooo
Posted on Tue, May 27, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Today we've got an interview with Josh Hahn, whose company, Stone Bridge, advises schools on how to address sustainability and how their physical campuses can become integral components of this curricular mission.
We here at SFUSA first met you through you involvement with the Lawrenceville School, a private boarding school in New Jersey. They have an extremely progressive school food program (headed by Gary Giberson), the keystone in their Green Campus Initiative. What was your involvement with Lawrenceville and that program?
At Lawrenceville I was hired to produce a strategic plan for how the school could address the large conceptual issue of sustainability, and specifically what sustainability means for schools. I think that "Education for Sustainability" is much different from "greening."
For example: if a school installs light sensors in a classroom so that the lights go off when students leave, they should think hard about what exactly that action is teaching. If the students don't have to turn off the lights themselves, it may be further disconnecting them from ecology and natural resources. Education for sustainability looks to integrate children with the natural world not disintegrate their relationship with it.
At Lawrenceville the dining services aspect of the project became a model for how everything is integrated (land and water management; green building and energy efficiency; experiential education; procurement; waste streams; community and economic partnerships).
What makes that program work?
Buy-in and planning. I approach all my projects from within the organization. Too many sustainability initiatives are just that, an initiative. They need to be fully integrated into the culture (and all of the complex nuances of a particular place) in order for an organization to have success. Having a separate "program" kind of defeats the purpose, though it is an entry point or starting place that is sometimes essential.
What do you say to the skeptics who say: of course! It's a private school! They're rich and going green costs money!
First, I do work primarily with well-endowed schools; to me it is even more essential for these schools to take on the leadership that will be necessary to transition us to a post-petroleum economy.
Second, it is true that in developing models there is initial upfront investment, however not all schools need to be models! Teachers can start by putting worm bins in their classrooms and teaching a lesson on Waste=Food. The underpinnings of an Education for Sustainability curriculum are very simple and can be taught in Pre-K or PhD with little to no investment.
Again, it goes back to the difference between "greening" and educating. The whole school doesn't need to be off the grid to teach these lessons. Rather than the whole salad bar being local, start with growing basil and making pesto in the school. The program will grow, not because of its virtuous philosophy, but because people will be authentically interested and actually like the pesto! Yes, even kids.
And, then you can expand: Next step? Bread from a local bakery. Then local tomatoes and fresh house made mozzarella (which is really easy to make with kids)…all of a sudden you have a grilled cheese that is unique to your school. Name it after a teacher… that is what we did at Lawrenceville and now all the teachers want a sandwich named after them!
What have you found to be the key elements for an institution to be successful on their path towards sustainability?
In my experience the organizations that are most successful in implementing some of these ideas are Learning Organizations. These are organizations that understand that teaching and learning are reflective practices that require constant adjustment.
Schools that are able to work across disciplines (science integrated with art), and across departments (teachers working with chefs and food service managers) are the most well equipped to hit the ground running. This is why food is so important to broader sustainability issues; it is a meeting place for everyone in the community. The key is to identify opportunities that already exist within an organization and to make the projects/lessons authentic to student's real lives.
Check out their web site: www.bridgingsustainability.com
Posted on Thu, April 10, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Earth Day (April 22) is coming up, a welcome reminder each year that the Earth is our home and provides generation after generation with life itself. Did you know that our current food system is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gases? Protecting our planet requires action by everyone, and supporting local food systems and sustainable food production will help value and protect the land that feeds us all. So what can you do?
Organic Valley, the family-farmed owned organic dairy cooperative, encourages people to host "Earth Dinners" with homemade, local food and conversation centered on the origins of what is being served. They've created a deck of conversation-starter cards to be used at Earth Day Dinners. More details and sample cards can be found on the Organic Valley web site.
If you live near one of these Slow Food Local chapters, you can participate in their Earth Day events, including:
Slow Food Monterey Bay will participate in the annual Central Coast Vineyard Team Earth Day Food & Wine festival in Santa Margarita, CA on April 19
Slow Food Huron Valley, Michigan will host Capuchin Soup Kitchen's Earth Day Commemoration on April 22, featuring speakers on sustainability, the soup kitchen's Farm Stand, and the establishment of a local monastery's organic farm. Proceeds will benefit the Soup Kitchen and Earthworks Urban Farm.
Slow Food Miami will host a Seafood Picnic in honor of Earth Day on April 27 to benefit their Pre-K school garden program.
Slow Food Spokane River's Earth Dinner at Wild Sage restaurant will connect diners to the local producers who grow their food.
Or, consider the possibility of treating it as a new year of sorts and making an Earth Day resolution. What will you do this year to help take care of the earth?
Posted on Mon, February 25, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
What better symbol of our commitment to Slow principles and ecological living than growing a garden? Home food production is almost a forgotten art, but Kitchen Gardeners International (KGI) and Portland, Maine convivium leader David Buchanan are working to reverse today's downward trends and help revive our gardens.
By David Buchanan
According to USDA statistics, today we buy more than 99 percent of the food we eat, and the percentage of home-grown food continues to decline. And yet backyard gardens and community plots can play a vital role in food production, as they did during the Second World War. At its height the Victory Garden movement produced nearly 40% of the produce consumed in this country. A reinvigorated garden movement could dramatically improve the way we grow and consume food.
In some cases all that's needed to start changing the way we eat and live on the land is a few basic tools, seeds and information. With that in mind, I traveled to Argentina in January to design and build a school garden in a shantytown neighborhood near Buenos Aires, and help launch a new KGI initiative.
The project's goal is to provide technical advice, training, tools, seeds and financial support for gardens in impoverished communities in the US and abroad. I spent nearly a month in Argentina designing the school's garden site, managing construction of planting beds and a pergola, prepping the soil, and working with local children to plant a variety of vegetables, herbs and fruits. I'll continue to stay involved to provide advice and support (and work with a school in Portland to form a sister garden project for their Spanish students).
Photos and a write-up of my experience with the school garden in Argentina are available at www.eatbydesign.org in the "travel" section.
Please visit www.kitchengardeners.org to learn more about Kitchen Gardeners International.
Posted on Fri, September 21, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
While some may wax nostalgic over the peculiar texture found only in the salisbury steak of our formative years, two self-proclaimed "angry" moms are doing more than their part to save the school lunch from its current state of despair. After being banned from her daughter's school cafeteria, where the only fresh, whole foods were found in home-packed, insulated totes, Susan Rubin and her pal Amy Kalafa embarked on a mission to educate and inspire those who remain at the frontline of the school food crisis: the moms. They have used film as their medium (a hybrid expose/how-to) to look inside the perilous system and highlight the potential positive ripple-effect that only a home-grown, truly reformed, nutritious school food menu could have. While the film is temporarily caught in distribution deals, the moms encourage all who support the fight for a "slow" school menu and healthier kids to host a screening in their community, getting folks appropriately "angry" and inspired for change.
Details on the message and the movement, along with great resources to get started on your own uprising can be found on their website.
For a concise assessment of the dismal school lunch situation and how it got that way, see Tom Philpott's article in Grist.
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.