From coast to coast, Americans are becoming more aware of the social, economic and environmental impact of our daily food choices. We live in a country of unimaginable but unsustainable bounty. Today farmers make up less than one percent of our population, and every minute we lose two acres of farmland to development. Obesity and diabetes are on the rise as the biodiversity of our food continues to shrink. Slow Food USA wants to change our food system.
We envision a world in which everyone has access to delicious food that is good for them, good for the people who grow it and good for the planet. A growing number of Americans share that vision. In 2008, our member network has grown 20 percent and we now have more than 16,000 members in nearly 200 convivia in 47 states.
Youth interest is growing. In colleges and universities, Slow Food on Campus convivia members take charge of their campus food systems by starting farmer's markets, sourcing local food for dining halls and fighting for fair treatment of farm workers. Together with young chefs, producers, and activists, they also tap into Slow Food's Youth Network at events like Slow Food Nation and Terra Madre.
Our Slow Food in Schools program also promotes many initiatives, including Garden-to-Table projects to teach children where food comes from and how it is produced. This year Slow Food USA awarded almost $10,000 in grants to enable Garden-to-Table leaders build websites and bread ovens and provide technical assistance to young chefs.
We are also addressing the issue of biodiversity. Over 1,000 food species and varieties are at risk of extinction in North America. To identify, restore and celebrate our diverse food traditions, in 2005 we formed the RAFT (Renewing America’s Food Traditions) alliance of food, farming, environmental and culinary organizations.
In May 2008, after three years of continent-wide research, we published Renewing America’s Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods, which tells the story of almost 100 foods, with recipes, research resources, an appendix of regional foods at risk and a toolkit for community-based conservation of heritage foods.
Slow Food USA’s work over the past eight years has continued to grow and today we are the second largest national association. After focusing on increasing membership and creating awareness of the Slow philosophy in the US, in the past three years we have established national programs and partnerships with conservation, culinary and education institutions.
Finally, in San Francisco from August 29 to September 1 2008, we staged Slow Food Nation, our antidote to the USA’s reputation as a fast-food nation. The event attracted farmers and producers from across the US and featured activities for all ages. Through such initiatives and our continuing work nationwide, we hope to introduce even more Americans to Slow Food.
First published in the Slow Food Almanac, 2008
Erika Lesser is a founder and executive director of Slow Food USA.
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