slow food week - making a difference?Slow Food Week - Making a Difference  

                            
by Amanda Eberhart, Clarksville Tennessee
June 12, 2012

In a fast-paced world full of deadline-driven people, it can be difficult to find the time to properly take care of yourself. Just thinking about our nutritional needs on top of our daily rituals seems exhausting. And when you're hungry and on a time crunch, it's very easy to fall victim to fast food, processed food, or both. It seems that our daily demands have rendered people too tired to think through and execute a well-planned meal, let alone a meal that sustains organic properties, good for both our body and the environment. But what people fail to understand is that in an effort to take care of ourselves by these "easy" means, we are overlooking how the choices that we make affect not just ourselves, but the environment and our world as well. So it's time to get educated on the problems at hand and the forthcoming solutions, and how you, individually, can help. These are the principles that the annual Slow Food Week celebrates June 18th through the 24th this year.
All it takes is the difference of one individual at the start:
In 1986, Carlo Petrini decided to take a stand against the over-industrializing of our food and achieved a recognition that sparked a movement throughout the world. In doing so, Petrini became the founding father of a small association called Slow Food, a movement that aims to demonstrate how food impacts our state of wellbeing and our environment. Petrini realized that our food traditions were waning and that people were growing more uneducated concerning how our plates and our planet are connected. This movement stands to counter the ever-rising fast food trend by offering alternatives to our over-processed plates. It also supports the workers who are responsible for producing the foods we eat, putting local farmers and artisans on an important pedestal. In the present day, what started as a small association of Italian origin has gained momentum and now boasts over 100,000 Slow Food members. These members are found throughout the world in over 150 countries and are dedicated to spreading this education even further, both by word and action.


In working towards combating how fast food and processed foods are standardizing tastes, the term 'Slow Food' alludes to the exact antonym of the term 'Fast Food'. From the growing and cultivating process, through the harvesting and selling process, nothing about this movement suggests industrialized, processed, or lightning speed. The Slow Food Movement is looking to emphasize the vital role that local agriculture, crops, and livestock play in our environment; the 100,000+ people taking action in this movement are reiterating to consumers the importance of sustainable foods; small, locally-based businesses; and regional agricultural products. The industrialization of these three main aspects has brought on the elimination of thousands of flavors and options for different pairings of food.  Culture is being forgotten, wellness is taking a back seat, and, sadly, the means the industry uses in producing the products that we consume have toxic effects on our environment. These priceless elements need to take precedent over what is "quick and easy", especially if we are going to see a major difference in our health and the state of our planet.
So how is Slow Food making a difference in the United States exactly? The world doesn't seem to be slowing down and the economy markets these organic products at a rate that is outside of the average person's budget. Slow Food USA online stands to combat both of these issues and also shares their objectives and their vision through this passage on their website:  "Slow Food USA is a national non-profit that believes in a world where food and farming are sources of health and pleasure for everyone. Organized into local chapters nationwide, our supporters, members and chapter leaders raise awareness through local projects, national advocacy campaigns and education, and seek to provide people with a pathway to make a difference in the sustainable food movement. From building a school garden to joining a campaign to make it easier to afford and access real food, Slow Food staff, members and supporters are reshaping the story of food and farming in America."


In addition, here are some highlighted examples of how Slow Food Week is catching on throughout America:  “Ironically, Slow Food has proved remarkably successful in the United States. Popular authors Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), as well as celebrity chef Alice Waters, have helped the Slow Food USA membership grow into the tens of thousands.

In 2008, Waters founded the inaugural Slow Food Nation event in San Francisco. The city welcomed the event with open arms, with Mayor Gavin Newsom encouraging the organization to replace part of the city hall lawn with a vegetable garden. The event featured a speech by Petrini, panels participated in by Pollan and Schlosser, a marketplace and food tastings, and other events. More than 50,000 people attended.

In the United States, Slow Food has been involved in post-Katrina New Orleans as well, with members raising money and devoting time and energy to help restaurants reopen.”


So how do you get involved on a small scale, when you’re not a celebrity chef, an author, or someone who knows about these things? Look into your region’s movement further via any means of research;  you may discover that there are many local associations and sponsors in your own backyard that provide farmers’ markets, wine tastings from local vineyards, and Taste Workshops or community celebrations involving regional specialties. It doesn’t take any special knowhow to find these events, just a search engine and a few key words. Try to incorporate the name of your town, your zip code, and other words referencing fairs, markets, festivals, local organic food, etc. You’ll be surprised by what’s happening in your hometown that you may not have known about. And then take the next step.


If you don’t want to get involved in a local chapter or donate without giving the principles of this movement a try, start by going out of your way to shop at local vendors and farmers’ markets. If nothing else, you are putting your hard earned money back into the local economy, supporting agriculture and farming jobs instead of feeding the fortune five hundred companies that are selling you “organic” products at sky-high prices. You’ll be paying about half the price for these products, too. On top of that, you know exactly where the products come from, and if you engage the seller, who is, nine times out of ten, the person responsible for the farm itself, you can find out how they take care of their crops, livestock, fruits and vegetables, etc. Then, start finding recipes to incorporate your locally bought goods. Again, search engines are your friend when it comes to this, and it does not need to be too complex or time consuming. A better eating regimen, a better educated outlook on how to take care of yourself and Mother Earth; the possibilities are endless if more people take notice and jump on board.


So, in light of Slow Food Week, I urge you to take a stand and get out into your community. You never know when your next favorite spot will be discovered, what your next delicious meal will be composed of, and how you, taking the time to make a difference, will contribute to making sure we still have a world to pass on to the generations to come.

Slow Food Week - Making a Difference