Slow Food, an anti-Fast Food movement that originated in Italy in the late 1980s, now has 1,500 Chapters in more than 150 countries and millions of members.
Although Slow Food is about slowing down to enjoy good meals, it’s about a lot more. It asks of us to slow down from our fast-paced culture and take a good look at how crazy, unsustainable and inhumane our food system has become. And then to participate in changing it.
Our relationship with food is being corrupted by the speed of modern life that forces many of us to grab “fast food” on the fly. It’s also being corrupted by agricultural, processing and distribution systems that devitalize, standardize and restrict our food options (for example, franchise restaurants that make one town look like every other) and are even changing the very nature of food.
Conventional food today is much less nutritious (grown in nutrient-deficient soils) and more toxic (with pesticides and GMOs) than it was even decades ago. But more than that, various additives, preservatives and artificial flavors in processed foods alter our hunger-satiation signals and may be a major factor in our current obesity epidemic. Food scientists spend a good amount of time altering foods chemically not only for shelf-life and convenience, but also to trick our senses.
Trying to have a healthy relationship with some of these food-like substances is like trying to have a healthy relationship with a master manipulator who has no conscience or ethics.
And this is only one of the harmful aspects of our food system. Soil and water pollution, animal abuse, antibiotic overuse, GMOs, inequities in who gets fed and who doesn’t … the list goes on.
Slow Food doesn’t shy away from confronting any of these issues in its quest for food that is “good, clean and fair:”
GOOD: Fresh, flavorsome, seasonal, satisfying to the senses and part of the local culture;
CLEAN: Production and consumption does not harm the environment, animal welfare or human health;
FAIR: Just conditions and pay for producers, and accessible prices for consumers
“An idea and a way of life,” according to its Slow Food Manifesto, the movement has led to many different projects, especially support for small farmers and artisan food processors around the who are being squeezed out by competition from large corporations.
Slow Food also participates in food policy discussions and in campaigns opposing GMOs and to save bees, to properly label food, and for more sustainable farming methods.
With Slow Food Travel a local chef can teach you all about an area’s unique culinary traditions and introduce you to local farmers, cheesemakers, herders, butchers, bakers and winegrowers.
Food Waste is another of Slow Food’s concerns. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization, about 1/3 of food grown for human consumption worldwide gets lost or wasted, while about 12% of the world’s population goes hungry. This also wastes all the resources that went into producing that food and is a major drain on the world’s food supply. In richer nations, much of the food that’s lost is thrown out by supermarkets because it’s imperfect looking. The Slow Food Youth Network has publicized this issue in “Disco Soup” events. Here, people come together in a public space to make a communal soup from “ugly” vegetables that would have been thrown away. Live music creates a festive atmosphere.
How can you participate in Slow Food and change our food system for the better? There are many possibilities, but first and foremost, extricate yourself as much as possible from any toxic relationships you have with conventional, processed and fast food. Support local, organic farmers, and eat real, fresh food!