Discussions focused on the Slow Food communities as a response to the challenges of the future
Between June 13 and 16, 2019, the picturesque Tuscan town of Chiusi welcomed 96 Slow Food representatives from 32 countries for the annual meeting of the Slow Food International Council, which gathers annually to set the direction for the association’s work over the next 12 months.
The focus of the debate during the meeting was the Slow Food communities, which have been identified as the most effective way to help change the food system from the ground up, starting with our own everyday food.
The community will become the main form of aggregation for Slow Food within its global organizational structure, as decided at the last International Congress, held in Chengdu, China, in autumn 2017.
Slow Food communities are formed to achieve a specific objective (like the planting of a food garden) connected to Slow Food’s general aims and to work in a specific area, in dialog with the rest of the local network. They also commit to making the international network stronger. This new organizational model is open, inclusive and deeply rooted at a local level, while still sharing international objectives like fighting food waste, overcoming inequalities, protecting biodiversity and combatting climate change, to name just a few.
The term “community” is not new to Slow Food. It officially entered our vocabulary in 2004 when we held the first Terra Madre gathering of food communities. Slow Food communities are made up of a group of people who share the values of the international movement, starting with its core belief: that everyone has the right to good, clean and fair food and that Slow Food will not give up the fight until every last person on this planet has access to it. A community is started with a founding declaration, in which the members state their adhesion to the ideals of Slow Food, the commitment and the objective that the community has set itself in order to promote the shared vision in their own local area and context and the contribution that the community will make to supporting the international network’s strategic projects (Presidia, Ark of Taste, food gardens, campaigns).
“For us, at the heart of the idea of community is the common good, linked to food, the environment, social relationships and spirituality,” said Carlo Petrini, Slow Food’s president, speaking in Chiusi. “We have much work to do to create a myriad of Slow Food communities around the world, but we are starting from the networks that are already active within the movement and from existing projects: the Ark of Taste and the Presidia, the Cooks’ Alliance, the Earth Markets, the food gardens. With them we will try to overcome the challenges that await us, namely the climate emergency and the collapse of ecosystems.”
Petrini’s ambition is in the process of being realized, with 80 Slow Food communities already created in the first half of 2019, everywhere from Russia to South Africa, Ecuador to Canada.
Examples of communities around the world include Italy’s Vesuvian Shared Garden Community, which as well as growing food in Cercola, close to Naples, is also strengthening social bonds and encouraging the inclusion of children, people with disabilities and other vulnerable members of society. Also in Italy, the Mirafood Community was started in Mirafiori, a suburb of Turin, rich in green spaces and food gardens. The community’s activities are focused on the fight against food waste, preserving the memory of culinary traditions, urban food growing and involving immigrant communities.
Changing continents, we arrive in Colombia, home to the Bocachica Community, which unites around a hundred fishers, cooks, local producers and consumers. Together they organize meetings, cooking workshops and other events to raise awareness about the wealth of marine resources and most importantly the need to protect the Caribbean’s ecosystems.
In the Philippines, we find the 138 members of the Pasil/Kalinga Community, the country’s first indigenous community, which is working to defend and preserve traditional seeds and to cultivate different rice varieties grown at high altitudes.
Promoting local gastronomic wealth, protecting biodiversity and encouraging sustainable tourism are the values that underpin the creation of the Viscri Community in Romania. The community members are working on mapping traditional foods and supporting and promoting projects that can bring new life to the local area.
In South Africa, within the 10,000 Gardens in Africa project, the Vhembe Community involves hundreds of people in tending local food gardens. The community’s objectives also include creating banks for collecting and protecting local seeds.
Carlo Petrini concluded: “The process that began in Chengdu in autumn 2017 is just the latest stage of a much longer journey, which started in the middle of the 1990s in Italy before spreading to 160 countries around the world. Today we are in Chiusi, but we are already looking forward to October 2020 when we will have a new edition of Terra Madre in Turin, which will also host the next Slow Food International Congress. It will be the most open congress ever, an opportunity to together write the future of Slow Food and hand the reins over to a new generation of leaders. They will have the great responsibility of guiding the movement over the next ten years, when much of the future of humanity will be decided.”
The Slow Food International Council meeting was made possible thanks to support from the Municipality of Chiusi and the Centro Commerciale Naturale Chiusi Città and the collaboration of the Slow Food Montepulciano Chiusi Convivium and local food producers and cultural institutions.
Updates on the conclusions of the International Council meeting can be found on www.slowfood.com