Slow Food USA is Working to Address Inequality in Our Food Systems

As the pandemic swept through the world this past year, the inequalities of our food system became crystal clear. When we trace food from fork back to farm, we see how injustices — theft of land and water, worker exploitation, lack of access to healthy foods, food apartheid neighborhoods, and diet-related health problems — are rooted in race, class and gender discriminations. Building healthy food systems means building a world in which all people can eat food that is good for them, good for the people who grow it and good for the planet.

Slow Food is a global network of local communities. Slow Food started in Italy over 30 years ago, and is now embedded in 160 countries from north to south. In the USA, over 115 chapters all around the country are made up of local community members — chefs, farmers, policy activists, educators and more — who work together on good, clean and fair food for all. 

Given the enormous complexity of global food systems, there is no single solution, and so we believe that change happens when we cultivate trusting relationships, align around shared values, and work together for collective impact. Our work extends from influencing national food policy, to growing school gardens to help guide our children to being more informed eaters and create healthier communities. 

We believe that when we slow down and build relationships, when we celebrate culture and flavor, and when we nourish healthy relationships with the land and sea, then we will change the world. We reject an economy based on profit and speed, and instead embrace a gift economy and reciprocal exchange. The impact that we have is focused in three areas: cultural and biological diversity, educating and mobilizing citizens, and influencing policies in public and private sectors.Over this past year, we have seen the need for building connections and taking direct action more than ever. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we created the National Resilience Fund to give direct financial support to vital businesses and workers in community-based food systems, through local Slow Food chapters and working groups. We are now in our third round, focused on the hospitality industry, with priority on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. In the first round, with the support of our community, we funded seed projects, children’s programs, food distribution to elders, the cultivation of food for communities, and much more. Round Two focused on Black-led food initiatives, and funded community-led organizations from Puerto Rico to Los Angeles. 

We are also in the midst of launching a more long-term project, Snail of Approval, with the goal to stimulate greater support for these important businesses—by eating, participating, volunteering, patronizing, donating, and spreading the word. 

The importance of building relationships and strengthening community also happens through our gatherings and events, and this past year this turned to virtual platforms allowing people from around the world to join in. We continued to open up and hold space for conversations through our Slow Food Live series, having weekly conversations with change-makers in the field, to cooking demos and talks with chefs. Our first annual Slow Seed Summit brought together growers, experts and activists to discuss seed sovereignty and preservation and other central topics in the world of seeds, in tandem with the Plant a Seed, Share a Seed campaign. The annual Slow Fish Gathering included deep-dive discussions and talks, gathering together fish harvesters with chefs, youth, farmers, and seafood eaters to discuss how to make our seafood more good, clean and fair for all.

Here at Slow Food USA, we believe that the world is best understood when we approach it with all of our senses. These emotional sensations change individuals and forge communities. And this approach is not just an effective technique for conveying knowledge; more importantly, it is an approach that makes learning relational, in which each of us is simultaneously student and teacher. Through this approach we urge the promotion of best practices around the world and highlight the bond between the health of the planet and our own. 

With the help of supporters like CREDO, we are uniting the joy of food with the pursuit of justice in our food system and our world. Join us!