Andy Nowak: A School Garden Snail Blazer
Sep. 12, 2017
Andy Nowak was just awarded the Slow Food Snail Blazer award at Slow Food Nations in Denver this year for his amibtious work in creating school garden programs. He was the Project Director for Slow Food Denver's "Seed to Table" (STT) school food program from 2001-2012, growing the program from four school gardens to more than 60 school sites. For the past five years, Andrew has been the community partner for Denver Public School's School Food Learning Lab, helping the District source local foods for the cafeteria, to train the school kitchen staff how to scratch cook and to implement salad bars throughout the district's cafeterias. On the National level, Andrew is a "Hall of Fame Chef" with Share Our Strength's "Cooking Matters" program and was one of six chefs invited to the White House in 2010 to help develop the "Chefs Move to Schools Program."
Slow Food: How long have you been a Slow Food member?
AN: Since 2001.
What inspired you to decide to become a member?
I had never heard of Slow Food before, until I moved to Denver in 2000. I got involved with my kid’s school, and through my culinary background I started some cooking and gardening classes at the school which led to starting my own school garden. When I read about the coming of the Slow Food Denver chapter in The Denver Post and the feature on school gardens, I thought, “I should go talk to these people.” And soonafter I became part of Slow Food’s educational committee.
What does the Slow Food movement mean to you?
It has shaped how I prioritize my time and my efforts. How do I want to spend my time and my money? How can I help the people that are growing our food and show other people about this movement? I’m focused on food these days, and it gives me the support and structure that helps me do it in a sustainable way.
Slow Food helps anybody figure out where they fit into the food system. The food system is very complicated and SF is one of the few groups that gives me some perspective over the current system. I’ve been able to use it as my standard and to help organize.
How do you engage Slow Food members in your community?
Through my events and activities. I try to lead by example and expose people to what SF is about by opening my home and hosting dining events as well as through my school garden efforts. I never say no to a speaking engagement or request for information. I think it’s important to walk the talk. Some of the barriers to SF is people don’t know how to get involved or they think that it’s too time consuming. But if they do it with me, they may be more comfortable to do it on their own.
How do you help people feel connected to Slow Food?
In the schools I’m involved in, I open up the opportunities for people to get involved. If parents like what they see or hear something positive from their kids, I always try to create ways for them to get involved too. I find ways for them to use their skills and talents to be involved.
What are you growing in your garden right now?
We moved onto our new farm on August 1st and in our garden there we’re growing leafy greens, radishes, beets, and transplanted cauliflower and broccoli.
Come to the table and become a member today.
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