Three members of Slow Food Youth Germany talk about what is on their minds these days and how they are dealing with the situation. As different as they are, their enthusiasm for good and sustainable food already united them in pre-Corona times.
Marie Pugachev was driving and listening to the radio when she noticed it. All possible so-called system relevant helpers were thanked in the program – the doctors, nurses, and geriatric nurses, of course, the employees in the supermarkets and discounters, the bus and train drivers, the garbage collectors, and many more. “I don’t want to diminish their performance, but what about the food producers?” asks Marie.
It’s not about giving thanks, but about fair wages
Marie Pugatschow, who is currently doing an apprenticeship in a cheese dairy in Schleswig-Holstein, is not interested in a thank you. “Work in food production, whether in agriculture or in the trades, is physically hard and relatively poorly paid. Only a few people want to work under these circumstances, which is why we depend on people from other countries to secure our domestic production”. She hopes that through the Covid-19 crisis this systemically important area will also receive more attention and that grievances will be remedied. For example, real prices and restructuring of European agricultural policy could make fair wages possible. Together with more appreciation from the population, jobs in food production could become more attractive.
Nikolai Wystrychowski from Münster is also concerned about seasonal workers and their pay: “The cheap wages reveal a problem of appreciation. Many people have no real relationship to what they buy.” He also adds that the indispensability of foreign harvest workers in agriculture shows “that we are still far from food sovereignty”.
Time to show solidarity and give something back
But the crisis also offers opportunities: “Now we can see the strengths of solidarity and cooperation. We at Slow Food, in particular, have always cultivated relationships with the people who do business the way we value it. And now our solidarity is even more in demand.” In concrete terms, Nikolai is currently setting up a delivery service by bicycle for a small local ice cream manufacturer. “Thanks to the wonderful ice cream and the passionate work of the operator Rosi and the operator Toni, I actually became a foodie in the first place and started to get interested in food and its production. Now it’s time to give something back.”
Josef Piwowarsky together with a partner opened his “essStudio” in the middle of Passau’s city center almost a year ago. In the delicatessen shop, he sells regional specialties – a curry sausage with sourdough rolls, soups, and sandwiches. When the Covid-19 quarantine was imposed, he was allowed to leave the shop open and offer takeaway food. Nevertheless, the losses are considerable: “We made about two thirds less turnover. After all, hardly anyone was still out and about in the city.” But several initiatives promoting regional shopping had supported him. Josef now delivers his sourdough pizzas and sandwiches to his customers via a newly established delivery service with e-bikes.
Discussion of ideas via video conference
Every few weeks Josef and other Slow Food Youth Network members organize digital meetings. There are always about 30 people online at the Zoom conferences, where they discuss how to help others, how to set up a good delivery service, or where to find funding. As a small contribution to Josef’s part, he will soon be offering an online course on the subject of fermentation: “So I can make good use of the time now.”
Josef also wants to raise awareness about quality food prices: “I would like people to realize that most prices in the gastronomy are not real. Good, clean and fair work is not possible like this.” He also pleads for a reduction of VAT in the catering sector after the Covid-19 crisis. “Otherwise most catering businesses will go bankrupt.”
Creative in the forced break
Sebastian Junge from the Hamburg restaurant “Wolfs Junge” is also eagerly waiting for the business to start up again soon. “We have put so much work into it, in spring the Michelin Guide awarded us for our commitment to sustainability. The mandatory break, though, brings a lot of creativity. Together with three other restaurateurs, Junge has created the “Hanseatische Gourmetaktie”. The idea behind it is: Guests can invest in different share sizes – from 50 to 5,000 euros – and thus receive discounts, pre-emption rights, or gifts in all participating restaurants for one year after reopening. “We simply wanted to do something else than vouchers or delivery services,” explains Junge. He is satisfied with success.
Junge is trying to get himself through the crisis as best he can. At Easter, he offered a limited number of food packages via Facebook, either for 99 or 149 euros. The regular customers were thrilled, the offer sold out quickly. “I am grateful for emergency aid and other government support. But I also find it a little presumptuous to keep reaching out.” His wish for the future is very simple: “We want to be back in the kitchen soon, entertaining our guests.”