When It Comes to Kids, Change Can’t Wait

"Harvest Time in Harlem," an education program run by Slow Food USA.

Last week, Michelle Obama made these remarks (VIDEO) to a group of fifth-graders who had just harvested 73 pounds of lettuce and 12 pounds of snap peas from the First Lady’s Garden on the White House Lawn:

“To make sure that we give all our kids a good start to their day and to their future, we need to improve the quality and nutrition of the food served in schools. We’re approaching the first big opportunity to move this to the top of the agenda with the upcoming reauthorization of the child nutrition programs. In doing so, we can go a long way towards creating a healthier generation for our kids.”

It wasn’t Michael Pollan who said those words. It was the First Lady. Coming from her, the phrase “big opportunity to move this to the top of the agenda” is a call to action we cannot ignore. Read more

Wisconsin Fourth-Graders Boycott School Lunch

Patricia Mulvey reported on the blog F is for French Fry that a group of fourth-grade students at Nuestro Mundo Elementary School in Madison, WI had planned to protest the unhealthy food served in their cafeteria by staying behind in class during recess and enjoying a home-cooked meal. Their “Real Food Picnic” – you might call it an Eat-In – was cancelled, however, when the school district’s assistant superintendent alerted parents and school administrators and asked them to discourage the event, citing concerns about food allergies, lack of supervision and the presence of news media. Read more

Covet Thy Neighborhood’s Soil

On a sunny afternoon last week, the day before a winter rainstorm rolled into San Francisco, I hit the streets with a bagful of “seedballs”—little dry balls of compacted clay, compost and seeds (in this case, native wildflowers). Whenever I happened upon an abandoned lot or a scrubby patch of soil around a tree in the sidewalk, I tossed in a seedball and hoped the next day’s rains would be heavy enough to dissolve the clay, stir in the compost and effectively plant the seeds. Read more

Chasing Rabbits

A photograph that hung on a wall near my desk in the Slow Food Nation office has been an inspiration, an adventure, a disappointment and perhaps now a call to action for me. It was a print of a work called Sei un Coniglio (Italian for “You are a rabbit”) by the artist and goats’ milk ice cream-maker Douglas Gayeton, an American who lived in Tuscany for many years. Sei un Coniglio shows a young farmer standing casually next to a rabbit he has just skinned and hung up by its feet. In the photograph, Gayeton has written over his overalls, “Riccardo is 19 years old and a rarity in Tuscany. Instead of wanting to leave the farm, Riccardo has already decided to remain a ‘contadino’ (peasant).” Read more

The Guide for Beginning Farmers

Greenhorn is a word I expect I’ll hear fairly often in years to come. A greenhorn, according to Severine von Tscharner Fleming, Paula Manalo and Zoe Bradbury – authors of the newly released second edition of The Guide for Beginning Farmers is “a novice, or new entrant into agriculture.” To be precise, it is a certain kind of new entrant into agriculture: one who was not raised to farm and who has no family farm to inherit but who is unconventionally and some would say irrationally choosing to become a farmer, no matter his or her lack of education and resources. Touches of madness are not uncommon among greenhorns. Gutfuls of passion aren’t either. Read more

The Real Gelato

The election is over, but Chris Tan of San Francisco’s Gelateria Naia – featured in the Taste Pavilions at Slow Food Nation 2008 – is calling for food activists in California to support another political cause: the definition of gelato. Read more

The Next Generation of Farmers

In his nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in Denver, Barack Obama told us, “America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done… Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save.” The group of about 20 of us who were listening to his speech on a laptop as we got ready for the “young farmers seed swap” about to take place at Slow Food Nation stood straight up and smiled. “Did he say farms? Does he mean that?” As 80 other young activists, students, cooks and farmers streamed into the room, that phrase – “farms to save” – swam circles in our ears. Obama was confirming what we are all beginning to feel is mission of our generation: saving farms, rebuilding the food system, digging back into the land. He didn’t mention what kind of farms we have to save, but he did imply that the future of the economy and of our cities is bound to the future of agriculture and that the security and livelihood of our nation depends on our ability to grow food. That’s an old-fashioned idea, but it’s still a big one—even to young people. Read more

Community Eat-In in the Victory Garden

This Saturday, November 22 at noon, San Francisco Bay Area residents will gather for an Eat-In at the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden in front of San Francisco City Hall. An Eat-In is a group of people gathering in a public space in order to share a meal. This Eat-In serves to bring local residents together to discuss how we ensure that everyone has access to good, clean and fair food. It is free of cost and open to the first 200 who register at http://slowfoodnation.org/get-involved/community-days-in-the-victory-garden/ Read more

A Young Activist’s Perspective of Terra Madre

The organizers of Terra Madre 2008, the “world meeting of food communities” that took place in Turin, Italy from October 23rd to 27th, deserve a round of toasts and raised fists. This year’s edition brought together 8,000 farmers, cooks, academics, advocates, activists, eaters and everyday people from over 130 countries. And of those 8,000, over 3,000 were delegates under the age of thirty – myself included – gathering under the new banner of the Youth Food Movement. We represented the emerging movement of young people who, defying the precedent of recent generations, are working passionately to dig back into the earth and put real food on all of our tables. That Slow Food International was able to mobilize this young army is testament to its commitment to empowering young people to continue the work our grandparents left behind. So to those who made it possible, and to the many thousands who came and contributed, Thank you—and bravo. Read more