What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Wed, April 28, 2010 by Gordon Jenkins
Jamie Oliver, Michelle Obama, a group of former military generals, and 550,000 others agree that Americas schools need help serving healthier school lunches. Yet the Child Nutrition Bill on Congress docket this year is stalled in the Senate and completely absent in the House.
Polls show that voters are strongly in favor of healthier school food. Congress just needs to get the message.
The legislators who need the most encouragement are those who sit on the House Education and Labor Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. They hold the keys to a strong Child Nutrition Bill with full funding for healthier food. If your Congressperson sits on one of these committees, please take three minutes to call up their office and voice your support. Weve made it easy for you by writing instructions and a sample message, which you can download here (for Ed & Labor), or here (for Ways & Means).
If your Congressperson doesnt sit on either Committee, you can still help out. Right now, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) are circulating a Dear Colleague letter asking Speaker Pelosi to take some leadership on this issue. 167 Representatives have signed the letter already. If your Representative hasnt, please urge him or her to do sign it before Friday, April 30.
And as always, you can ask your friends to email their legislators via the form on our Time for Lunch Campaign web site.
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 Fri, April 16, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Christine Binder
Have you been watching Jamie Olivers Food Revolution? For the past four Fridays, several million viewers, myself included, have been tuning in to watch the passionate Brit in a pea suit work to improve school lunches and teach people to cook in Huntington, West Virginia.
(The last two episodes of the 6-episode series will be airing on ABC on April 16th and 23rd at 10pm EST. If youve missed any of the previous episodes, you can watch them online here.)
While I cant wait to see what Jamie accomplishes in Huntington, Im actually more fascinated by the strong responses hes evoking nation-wide. Jamie certainly has both supporters and skeptics. At the moment, over 272,000 people have signed his petition in support of saving cooking skills and improving school food, but opinions seem to vary widely in the blogosphere. (Here are two interesting takes from nutrition professor Marion Nestle and school lunch expert Kate Adamick.)
For those making bets on how the Food Revolution will unfold, here are two studies of Jamies work that may help you make a guess. The first comes from the Royal Economic Society and looks at middle schools in the London borough of Greenwich, where Oliver implemented a healthy school lunch program in 2004. According to researchers, excused absences dropped 15%, scores on standardized tests increased by several percentage points (a significant difference), and participation in the lunch program also increased.
The other study from researchers at West Virginia University evaluates the short-term effects of Olivers program in Huntington using surveys from 4th and 5th grade students, teachers, cooks, and the food service director. In this case, students preferred the standard school food to Jamies entrees, and participation in the lunch program decreased. Children were, however, more likely to try new foods as a result of Jamies program.
In my opinion, the best things about Jamies show are that it brings awareness to the important issues of school lunch and childhood obesity and that it has helped to ignite a serious conversation that America desperately needs to have.
This blog post is an open thread: please use the comments below to share your thoughts. What do you think about Jamie Olivers Food Revolution?
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 Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Lila Wilmerding
This morning foodservice corporation Aramark signed a significant agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). In a joint statement, the two parties announced that Aramark has decided to pay a 1.5-cent premium for every pound of tomatoes picked, with the premium to be distributed directly to harvesters. In combination with other conditions of the agreement, this is a great step towards fairer wages and labor conditions on US farms.
Aramarks pledge is the eighth agreement that has resulted from the Student Farmworker Alliances Dine with Dignity campaign. Sodexo is the only major food service provider yet to sign. Now that the four biggest fast-food companies and two biggest food service companies have made agreements with the CIW, supermarkets will hopefully be the next to follow suit.
The agreement comes at an exciting time for the CIW, as their Farmworker Freedom March (a 22-mile march between Tampa and Lakeland, FL from April 16-18) is quickly approaching.
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 Wed, March 31, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Christine Binder
A recent study in Nature Neuroscience found that rats allowed to binge on high-fat, high-calorie foods junk food bought at the grocery store not only became obese, but also became compulsive eaters. The neuroscientists found that changes in the brains of the obese rats are similar to those found in people with a physical addiction to drugs.
This comes as no surprise if you have read David Kesslers book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, which states that overeating comes not from character flaws, but from biological conditioning. Eating foods high in fat, sugar, or salt reinforces the desire to eat those foods again. The more people eat them, the less rewarding they taste, which drives them to compensate by compulsively eating even more. The food and restaurant industries know this. Tons of research and development goes into designing foods that are literally irresistible, or as the industry calls them, cravable.
Kesslers book has influenced Michelle Obamas Lets Move initiative, which aims to eradicate childhood obesity within a generation. Here is an excerpt from The First Ladys speech to the Grocery Manufacturers Association earlier this month:
“Humans are hard-wired to crave sugary, fatty, salty foods. And it is temping to take advantage of that to create products that are sweeter, richer, and saltier than ever before.
This can be particularly dangerous when it comes to our kids the more of these products they have in their diets, the more accustomed they become to those tastes, and then the more deeply embedded these foods become in their eating habits.”
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.
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.