The Slow Food Movement: Part 1 of 2

Today I am giving a presentation in class on the Slow Food Movement. It’s something I’ve been interested in learning more about, and since it’s gaining so much momentum and popularity, I thought I’d share what I learned with you guys.

You may hear occasional references to the SFM around your city – farm-to-table restaurants; school garden programs; local nutrition classes; a neighbor raising chickens or bees… these are all parts of the SFM in their own way.

According to slowfoodusa.org, “Slow food is an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. It is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment.”

The mission of the SFM is to create a significant and permanent change in the food system, and to reconnect people with the traditions, plants, animals, fertile soils and waters that produce our food. The SFM wants to inspire a transformation in food policy, production practices and market forces such that the food we eat is healthy and sustainable.

The SFM began in Italy in the mid-1900s with a man named Carlin Petrini. Petrini felt strongly about preserving local wines and wine production processes, and began devoting all of his time to this. Eventually he expanded into food, and created a group called Arcigola. “Gola” means “throat” and “desire for good food.” Arcigola’s goal was to support and promote quality food and wine that was produced locally at fair prices. The group, led by Petrini, would travel from town to town and visit small wineries or farms, encouraging sustainable and safe production and processing. They’d also support local restaurants who shared Arcigola’s mission and vision.

In 1986, a series of events caused Petrini’s small group to expand more rapidly: industrial farming methods in Italy led to mad cow disease, toxic pesticide runoff, and methanol tainted wine. All of these things killed some people and shocked others. In addition, the first European McDonald’s was built in Rome in the Piazza di Spagna, an event that outraged many. Arcigola became Slow Food International, and the movement officially began.

The official symbol of the SFM is the snail. Apparently the Slow Food Movement has origins in a few small Italian towns, one which translates to "snail." The snail also symbolizes slowness.

Slow Food International currently has over 100,000 members in 132 countries, and Slow Food USA has local chapters in 200 different cities. There is even a school, University of Gastronomic Sciences, which opened in 2004 with the help of Slow Food International. It has two campuses in Italy. The school’s purpose is to promote awareness of good food and nutrition.

The objectives of the SFM are as follows:

  • To form seed banks to preserve heirloom varieties of food
  • To preserve and promote local and traditional foods including preparation methods
  • To organize small scale processing facilities (slaughtering)
  • To educate consumers about fast food, factory farms, risk of monoculture, and commercial agribusiness
  • To lobby for policy support in organic farming and to lobby against genetic engineering and pesticides
  • To encourage ethical buying in local markets

Tomorrow I’ll talk more about Slow Food USA and ways you can get involved in your individual cities. It’s easy to be a part of the SFM and there are more opportunities now than ever before!

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