What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Wed, March 24, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Julia Landau
Jamie Oliver, the famed Naked Chef, launches his new reality TV program Jamie Olivers Food Revolution this Friday, March 26 at 8pm EST on ABC. For folks like me who cant wait until Friday (who said patience was a virtue?), a sneak peak of the first episode is available.
The show accompanies Oliver through his quest to change the way America eats. Hes chosen Huntington, WV, the statistically unhealthiest city in the U.S., as his jumping-off point.
Jamies efforts are two-pronged, focusing both on school food and on family cooking in the home. On both fronts hes up against resistance and skepticism. In the first moments of the show, we watch Oliver meet Central City Elementarys crew of chefs, who have to operate within a broken system and arent necessarily happy with ambitious outsiders telling them what to do. Following his tense introduction to the cafeteria, Oliver brings the revolution home to a local family, where his challenge is to transform the diet of a family living off of fried food and frozen pizzas. Hes up against fifty years of ingrained values and misinformation.
TV hoopla aside, I believe this show is actually a big deal. It has the potential to speak to a mostly mainstream audience, and to help Americans take a hard look at school food and what were eating. To be sure, he may piss off more than a few people, but Im glad to see he isnt shying away from hitting the ground and talking to people face-to-face. Lets also consider the network on which the show is airing ABC. This isnt the Food Network. Hes outside the bubble.
Whats more, Jamies show comes at exactly the right time, as Congress is just beginning to discuss its bill to update school meal programs. The timeliest way to join the food revolution is to ask your legislators to support a strong Child Nutrition Act that helps schools serve healthier food. Check out Slow Food USAs Time for Lunch Campaign to get involved and check out Jamie Olivers Food Revolution for some laughs, some tears, and hopefully a happy ending.
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.
Posted on Wed, March 17, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Alex Loud, leader of Slow Food Boston
For a number of years now, a host of organizations in Massachusetts have been pushing to reduce the amount of junk food being marketed in public schools in the state. Before this year, however, these efforts had been consistently rebuffed in the Massachusetts legislature and cafeterias around the state have continued to hawk a sorry collection of chips, sugary cereals and soda. Last week, however, all that changed.
On March 11th, the Massachusetts state Senate voted unanimously in favor of a bill known as the “School Nutrition Bill.” The bill as written currently will ban junk food, sodas and sports drinks from being sold in schools either in vending machines or cafeterias. As the Boston Globe put it:
“The measure establishes nutritional standards for items available at vending machines, school stores, and snack bars during school hours, and it essentially bans the sale of soda, candy bars, fried chips, and even sports drinks, which health officials say can sometimes have more sugar than their carbonated counter parts.
The bill calls for selling nonfat and low-fat dairy products, non-fried fruits and non-fried vegetables, whole grains and related products, and beverages without additives or carbonation, non-sweetened water, and 100 percent fruit juices.”
Posted on Mon, March 15, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Robin Kerber, CIA Student and volunteer with Slow Food Hudson Valley
As I sat in the car, waiting for my friends, I was thinking about a recipe for winter barley vegetable soup: butternut squash, roasted beets, celeriac, and barley. After spending all day making pastries in class, nothing sounded more satisfying than a bowl of warm soup made with fresh, local ingredients. But I wasnt making the soup for me. I was about to travel to the Mount Kisco Child Care Center to help with a friendly Iron Chef whole grains themed competition.
The first time that wesix students from the Culinary Institute of Americahad traveled to Mount Kisco to plan our meal with the kids, I had had no idea what to expect. What do children know about cooking let alone designing a dish? It turns out they know a lot. At least the children of The Mount Kisco Child Care Center do. They have their own edible schoolyard, which produces a huge variety of fresh fruits and veggies.
My friends and I arrived with our knives sharpened and our whisks in hand. My team came up with a recipe that sounded delicious and hearty, with flavors like thyme and parsley. Im fairly certain I didnt know what thyme was until I was much older than these kids but the experience made me realize that something remarkable was spreading slowly but surely across the nation: initiatives to teach children how to live sustainably. The children were gathered around a table, carefully cutting vegetables into chunks. We immediately got to work in the kitchen, helping the excited children prepare a tasty meal. And, as dinner - time rolled around, the Center was packed with friends, family, and local purveyors.
Many of the courses featured wheat, oats, and cornmeal that were grown and milled in the Hudson Valley. Local honey sweetened whole wheat bread and polenta with I&Me Farm pea shoots setting the stage for a fantastic meal. My teams vegetable barley soup and an entrée of quinoa pilaf with local apples helped make the meal a celebration of winter flavors. By the time apple crumble was served, the consensus was clear: local food is simply great. But it wasnt just the food that made the night unforgettable. It was the feeling that we were working as a unified group, rather than as individuals. By the end of the evening, most would have to agree that life feels more meaningful when you understand the connection between land, food, and community.
Final words from the Mt. Kisco Child Care Center kids-Stephanie, Paulina, Sabrina, Vincent, Benji, Emily, Sam, Nitza, Jocelyn, Emma, Clara and Zachery aged 5-11:
“Everyone got to practice their knife skills. We ran back and forth from harvesting fresh pea shoots to the busy kitchen. Yummy taste of peas.”
“This was our second iron chef competition and it was fun. All we ask is: When can we do it again? Growing and cooking are the best. It makes everyone so happy.”
“Maybe well go to school to become chefs one day, but even if we dont, well be healthy eaters.”
Posted on Sat, March 13, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Julia Landau
The study, entitled Farm-to-School Programs: Perspectives of School Food Service Professionals, also found that there is a direct relationship between sourcing locally and students fruit/vegetable consumption. School food service professionals suggested that having met or learned about the farmers providing these foods made the act of eating the produce more personal for students.
That being said, what happens when food comes from a local food distributor rather than directly from the farmer? For many schools, sourcing from a distributor provides a more feasible option than from multiple individual farmers. In that case, education about the origins of the food can provide a key link to healthier school eating habits.
On the farmers side of the equation, interviews with school food service professionals suggested that schools are attractive markets for local farms. Oftentimes schools can make use of outsize and imperfect items, such as smaller apples and twisted carrots. As opposed to the retail market, schools may have more flexibility in regard to product appearance and size.
This study contributes to a growing body of research supporting local food sourcing for schools. Food service professionals are proud to serve it, students feel encouraged to eat it, and farmers have another market to sell it.
“Farm-to-School Programs: Perspectives of School Food Service Professionals” by Betty T. Izumi, PhD, MPH, RD; Katherine Alaimo, PhD; Michael W. Hamm, PhD can be found in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 42, Issue 2, (March/April 2010) published by Elsevier.
Posted on Fri, March 12, 2010 by Gordon Jenkins
On March 3, Senator Blanche Lincoln told a conference of school meal providers that she plans to start marking up the Child Nutrition Act before March 26, when Congress goes on Easter recess. If the Senator is true to her word, this will be the first progress on the bill since Congress passed a one-year extension last fall.
Lincoln also said that shes seeking the biggest increase ever in funding for child nutrition programs, citing President Obamas proposal to add $1 billion per year. While that amount isnt enough to transform school lunch, it is an important step forward and we encourage everyone to let Congress know its a priority.
Our other policy goals strengthening nutrition standards for all the food at school, and linking schools to local farms have strong support from the USDA and will likely be included if Congress supports the funding increase. We’re already seeing progress: two bills to support Farm to School programs have recently been introduced in the House and Senate. A quick way to help these bills get included in the Child Nutrition Act is to call your legislators and ask for their support.
The other important news is that legislators will be home in your district for Easter recess from March 26 to April 11. This is a great opportunity to get their attention. Some easy things you can do are:
Submit a Letter to the Editor or Op-Ed to your local paper. One fantastic story would be to gather a group of parents to eat school lunch, and then write about it in an Op-Ed.
Schedule a meeting with your legislator or his/her staff. Bring kids, parents, teachers and school meal providers, and let them do the talking.
Invite your legislator or his/her staff to eat school lunch.
Posted on Tue, March 09, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Emily Dagostino, Slow Food Chicago volunteer
Wee toddlers scribbling in crayon, kids and teenagers tuned into the trouble with today’s school lunches, and parents advocating for the well-being of their children were among dozens of Windy City denizens who penned letters at a recent event asking Congress for increased funding for school lunches.
It was great, says Slow Food Chicago board member Ryan Kimura. We received about 40 letters, but I felt the impact was stronger than that. Sara Gasbarra, Green City Market Sprouts Program Chair, agreed: I think the event was a total success!
Green City Market and Slow Food Chicago teamed up to sponsor the Kids Write to Eat event on February 27 as part of a ramping up of outreach efforts for the Time for Lunch Campaign that began with Slow Food Chicagos annual meeting in January. Since then, dozens of volunteers have emerged ready and excited to help spread the word. Teachers have approached Green City Market and Slow Food Chicago about bringing the letter-writing campaign back to their classrooms, and volunteers have redoubled efforts to reach out to like-minded organizations in the Chicago area to find new ways to tell our collective story.
In the next week or so, representatives from Slow Food Chicago, Green City Market and Common Threads plan to hand-deliver the kids (and parents) letters to the Chicago office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill. They hope to use the meeting to discuss with the senators staff why childhood nutrition and healthy lunches are a priority and to request the senators support.
In the letters, 6-year-old Alyssa, 7-year-old Quinton and 13-year-old Taisha asked Congress to please serve healthy food in their schools. Not only would it help them concentrate but it gets you going at recess, Quinton wrote.
Posted on Tue, March 09, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Valerie Scott
In his 2011 budget President Obama proposed to make cuts in farm subsidies and the crop insurance program that would save almost 11 billion dollars over 10 years. This proposal Obamas second attempt to cut farm subsidies - was rejected last Wednesday by the House Agriculture Committee .
Since the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill, farmers eligible to participate in the subsidy program must make no more than $500,000 in adjusted gross income (AGI) from off-farm sources and no more than $750,000 on-farm AGI. The newest Obama farm cuts would have lowered these eligibility caps to $250,000 off-farm AGI and $500,000 on-farm AGI. Direct payment caps were targeted for cuts of 25%, from $40,000 to $30,000 annually. A cut of $8 billion from the Federal Crop Insurance Program was also proposed.
The Obama administrations first unsuccessful attempt to cut farm subsidies in 2009 focused on phasing out direct payments to farmers with annual sales of more than $500,000. Direct payments are a highly controversial subsidy given to farmers based on the size of their farm and the commodity they grow - regardless of crop prices or production levels. In 2007, a year of high crop prices and record net income for farmers, taxpayers paid out $5 billion in direct payment subsidies. Despite the current deficit crisis, cuts in even the most controversial subsidies to wealthy farmers clearly remain an uphill political battle.
Farm subsidies primarily benefit growers of just five crops corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice. With Congress currently giving school lunch programs just $1 per meal for a generation of children afflicted with epidemic levels of obesity and diabetes can we really afford not to put those 11 billion dollars towards better nutrition programs?
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.