What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Tue, June 01, 2010 by Intern
by intern Christine Binder
Back in February, Michelle Obama unveiled Let’s Move!, her campaign to end childhood obesity. As part of this effort, President Obama established the Task Force on Childhood Obesity, whose job it was to develop a roadmap to tackle the problem. This May, after three months of research, including input from 12 federal agencies and 2,500 submissions from the public, the Task Force released their plan outlining benchmarks, strategies, and actions to reduce the rate of obesity in children to 5% by 2030.
The 124-page report, entitled “Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation,” includes 70 recommendations for actions for both the public and private sectors to take. The recommendations fall under the four key areas of concern Mrs. Obama announced earlier in the year: Healthy Choices (Empowering Parents and Caregivers), Healthier Schools, Physical Activity, and Access to Affordable Healthy Food. The Task Force added a 5th area of concern, Early Childhood, because research shows that around one in five children are overweight or obese by the time they reach age six, and over half of obese children become overweight before their second birthday. Here’s the full report, and here’s an excellent short summary of the recommendations.
Like many other public health professionals, I am optimistic about this report, but cautiously so. It is clear that when it comes to approaching the obesity epidemic, the Obama Administration gets it. Most of the Task Force’s recommendations focus on creating an environment where the healthy choice is the easy choice instead of the difficult one. Jane Black of the Washington Post writes, “The new report has some serious policy implications. Yet the administration so far has shied away from getting its hands dirty in political and legislative fights in this particular arena.” The big question is, does the government have the willpower to do what needs to be done?
Posted on Fri, May 28, 2010 by Intern
by intern Shauna Nep
As anyone in my life will attest to, I talk a lot about the benefits of a neighborhood farm for a community. However, it is not often that I have the opportunity to contribute hands-on to the creation of one.
Fortunately- I had the chance to get my hands deep in the dirt last Friday as I joined an inspired and diverse group of volunteers in building a Neighborhood Farm at Ujima Community Garden in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Slow Food NYC has adopted the Ujima garden, which has become overrun with inhospitable weeds, to create a youth farm.
Sandra Mclean, Slow Food NYC’s Leadership Committee Chair, shared with us their plan for the farm, which includes a spiral vegetable bed (um- awesome!), a flagstone meeting area surrounded by a “Three Sisters Garden”, a chicken coop, bees, and even bean teepees that are big enough to crawl inside of. Slow Food NYC will use this amazing space to host a “Good Food and Gardens” program this summer, and WATCH high school students will care for it in the fall.
As we spent the day cutting brush, digging out stumps, clearing rocks and chopping down trees, I was mindful of how my small role would contribute to the big picture: the creation of a farm and a beautiful space to be used, enjoyed, and cared for by the community.
I cannot wait to see how it turns out.
Posted on Wed, May 26, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Christine Binder
On Friday, May 7th, Congressional Representative Michael Arcuri stood in the lunch line and thanked the school lunch ladies for his meal along with the 5th grade classes at the Martin Luther King Elementary School in Utica, NY.
Last month, Debra Richardson, co-chair of Slow Food Mohawk Valley, spoke to students at the school about fruits and vegetables and led them in a letter writing activity in support of the Time for Lunch Campaign to help school serve healthier food. They wrote to Representative Arcuri on paper plates, asking for “healthy fresh food” full of “nutrients and vitamins” to “help make them strong.”
Representative Arcuri’s visit was in response to these letters. While at MLK Elementary, he sat down in the cafeteria to talk and eat lunch with the students, which included a healthy, locally-made butternut squash cookie. The Congressman was also shown the recently donated refrigerator that houses a daily delivery of fresh fruits or vegetables to serve as a snack through a grant from the Department of Defense.
According to Richardson, “that donation shows how a community can, in part, address its own needs. Now what we need from our Congressional representatives is their attention on the upcoming legislative actions and to fully fund the Child Nutrition Act. That can make a real difference on their end.”
Posted on Mon, May 24, 2010 by Intern
by intern Shauna Nep
The next Farm Bill isn’t scheduled to move through Congress until 2012, but the House Agriculture Committee has already started gathering input—two-and-a-half years ahead of schedule.
Perhaps that’s good, considering how important the bill is. Both directly and indirectly, the Farm Bill impacts who can farm, how they farm, the types of food that can be grown, and the price of certain foods at the grocery store. In general, farm policy is a big part of the reason fast food is cheap and healthy food is harder to find. So what happens with the 2012 Farm Bill is a matter of concern for everyone, not just farmers.
So far, the House Agriculture Committee’s hearings suggest that the top debate for this Farm Bill will be whether government support programs are being used responsibly and effectively. Another issue will be the USDA’s current emphasis on an approach to rural development that’s broader than just making payments to big corn and soy farms.
While we’re piecing out the upcoming issues in this debate, it’s helpful to look at a few windows of opportunity in the upcoming bill:
-Could there be more incentives for farmers to grow fruits and vegetables, and not just commodity crops?
-Could accepting food stamps at farmers’ markets help to combat obesity?
-Should sodas be banned from the food stamp program, similar to the program’s existing bans on tobacco and alcohol?
-Could a “whole-farm revenue” concept for crop insurance replace the present system that encourages production of a single crop, and instead encourage more diverse crops?
-Could an expansion of the green payments program incentivize sustainable farming rather than overproduction?
Fortunately, Congress is talking like it’s open to change for the 2012 Farm Bill. Ag Committee Chairman Colin Peterson says that he is looking to make fundamental changes, and that everything’s “on the table.” USDA’s Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has emphasized the importance of local food systems.
Posted on Thu, May 06, 2010 by Gordon Jenkins
The next Farm Bill isn’t supposed to come until 2012, but Congress started work on it last month, two-and-a-half years ahead of schedule. Not surprisingly, no one’s asking everyday people or everyday farmers what they want from the bill.
Yet we’re the ones who stand to lose if Congress passes another Farm Bill that prioritizes corporate profit over healthy farms and healthy people. It’s time we got up to speed, and started speaking up.
Here’s where you can go to catch up:
Farm Policy, a daily newsletter about food and farm policy. Sign up for the email service and you’ll receive everything you need to know about what’s going on in D.C. It’s a ton of information, but worth skimming each morning.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s blog. Slow Food USA is a member of the coalition, and our staff relies on their blog for policy news.
The Farm Bill and Beyond, an outstanding and very comprehensive report about how the 2008 Farm Bill came to be. It’s a little long, but definitely worth reading if you want some insight on how the next fight will play out.
Slow Food USA’s staff is weighing strategies for the next Farm Bill. It’s imperative that we start by listening to farmers and coming to some mutual goals – otherwise, we risk dividing ourselves when ultimately we’re all working towards a common vision.
What are the farmers in your area saying? Post your comments below.
Posted on Wed, May 05, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
Imagine AmeriCorps service members building and tending school gardens and developing Farm to School programs for public schools around the country.
That’s the vision for FoodCorps, a new project in a year-long planning phase; I’m proud to say Slow Food USA is a part of it!
Our next open conference call to discuss the planning process is tomorrow. Catch up on the latest news about the program’s development and find out how you can get involved. The topic of this week’s call is an overview of the structure of the FoodCorps planning process and information on ways you can become involved.
This Thursday May 6, 5pm Eastern
Call (605) 475-4333
Enter code 571334#
For More Information:
Also, follow us on twitter: @foodcorps
Posted on Mon, May 03, 2010 by Intern
by intern Lila Wilmerding
Among other organizations, Maple Avenue School in Newark, New Jersey has partnered with Slow Food Northern New Jersey to integrate growing vegetables, healthy eating, and fitness into the everyday curriculum. Since the beginning of this past school year, the chapter has worked with the school to bring grow boxes to classrooms and organize lectures and visits from farmers.
This “Growing Minds” project—which includes sprouting mung beans and keeping diaries of the classroom grow boxes—is fueled in large part by enthusiastic teachers like Natasha Parilla, who has worked hard to bring food and gardening into the school’s K-8 classrooms. Before the program started, the teachers attended a half-day training session on using the grow boxes as a classroom tool and then worked together to integrate what they had learned into the state-mandated curricula. According to Margaret Noon, leader of the Slow Food Northern New Jersey chapter, this connection to people who know and understand the school system has been fundamental to the success of the program.
Recently, Newark Beth Israel’s Kid Fit Program, Scholastic Books, and Slow Food Northern New Jersey collaborated with Maple Avenue School to organize an event called Eat, Grow, & Go. During the course of a day, over 500 students at Maple Avenue were taught to grow potatoes in buckets by a nearby organic farmer, learned about egg production from a local kilt-wearing farmer while passing live chickens around the classroom, and sampled local organic carrots, salad turnips, and potatoes.
It’s hard to believe that such a well-developed project has come together in just one school year. But Slow Food Northern New Jersey is not finished yet—Maple Avenue’s success has caught the attention of the Newark Superintendent of Schools, hopefully paving the way for similar programs at other schools in the area.
Posted on Fri, April 30, 2010 by Slow Food USA
by Yonatan Landau
Think of the last time you saw something that pissed you off enough to do something amazing about it. Maybe it was a long grocery line or a bumper sticker for the Tea Party, or maybe it takes a humanitarian crisis like Haiti to really get your adrenaline going.
For me, it was orange chicken.
A year ago, I found out that UC Berkeley’s first national fast food chain, a Panda Express, was slated to open its doors adjacent to the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement. Like Slow Food in reaction to a McDonald’s next to the Spanish Steps in Rome, we rose to the occasion.
We dredged up some surprising details (all Panda’s menu items except steamed rice are over 50% fat; even their steamed veggies are cooked in meat) and drew hundreds of students to protest. We also gave the administration something they could say yes to: we raised over $100,000 for a student-run café and sustainability hub. The administration eventually rejected the chain, and the Berkeley Student Food Collective was born.
Now, this summer, the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFed) will train student leaders on campuses around Northern California to create local, organic, community-run cafes on their campuses. Imagine students hosting fermentation workshops and panels of local food movement leaders in the same space that they and their friends buy an affordable, organic salad and fair trade coffee for lunch (check out the lovely Sprouts Cafe in Vancouver or the raucous Maryland Food Collective).
A best-practices business plan for a financially sustainable platform for campus food movement organizing - a community-run cafe.
A support network of food system stakeholders and activists dedicated to a just and sustainable food system. CoFed is has formed alliances with these organizations: Slow Food on Campus, Slow Money, Real Food Challenge, FeelGood, Food Coop 500, California Students for Sustainability Coalition, The Food Alliance, United Farm Workers, Veritable Vegetable, The California Center for Cooperative Development, Hazon, Thanksgiving Coffee.
An intensive, peer-based training: June 15-20th, CoFed will host an intensive boot camp in Northern California, bringing together students from all around the West Coast. Participants will be mentored by local farmers and chefs, create a plan for their campus food co-op, and build their project teams.
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.
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.