On September 17, over 5,570 meals took place across America as part of Slow Food USA’s $5 Challenge, with 30,000 people answering the question “Is it possible to make a healthy, local, and delicious meal for under $5 per person?” with a loud YES!
Slow Food USA announced the challenge to cook slow food for the cost of fast food on August 17. Just four weeks later, over 30,000 people rose to the challenge to take back the ‘value meal’. Through simultaneous events held across the country, participants sent a message to America’s leaders that it’s simply not acceptable that many people live in communities where it’s “harder to buy fruit than Froot Loops.”
“We never imagined so many people would step up,” said Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA. “But we can’t stop here. If we’re going to meet Michelle Obama’s challenge to end the childhood obesity epidemic in a generation, it’s going to take each and every one of us rolling up our sleeves, cooking with friends and family and pushing for change in our communities and our public policies.”
On the day of action, in a “food desert” area of Portland, 100 community members prepared everything from tacos to Persian soup and made plans for better food in their neighborhood. In Louisville, food trucks gathered in a parking lot and sold sustainable food. At Chicago’s largest farmer’s market, vendors sold five-dollar meals and home cooks shopped for ingredients to take the challenge. Some people brought their own flair to the event, like Bear Braumoeller of Slow Food Columbus, who decided to take the $5 Challenge one step further, succeeding to create a sustainable $5 meal in 15 minutes—to show that sustainable cooking can be quick as well as affordable.
The $5 Challenge aimed to give communities an opportunity to come together, to share a meal and to begin a conversation about what needs to change with their local food system and bring attention to the challenges many people face in trying to feed their families healthy, sustainable food – from a lack of access, to the rising price of fruits and vegetables and the falling price of soda and junk food.
“Right now, we have policies that make it harder to feed our children fruit than Froot Loops,” said Viertel. “But everyday, against the odds, people find ways to cook real food on a budget. We need to make cooking and eating that way a possibility for everyone.”
The $5 Challenge sets the stage for Slow Food USA to launch a broader campaign to change the policies that make it a challenge for Americans to do the right thing when it comes to food. The organization’s next push will be around the 2012 Food & Farm Bill.