In the Field: A conversation with Slow Food USA president
Farmer D talks with Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA, about the future of our food system. Visit their site: www.slowfoodusa.org (Nick Scott/MNN)
Farmer D: I’m honored and excited to be here with Josh Viertel, the President of Slow Food USA. So, what is it that you’re actually doing out there to pollinate?
Josh: Slow Food is basically -- I think of it in three ways. One, it’s food, it’s food that’s good for you, it’s good for the planet, it’s good for people to produce it. It’s good, clean, fair food. So, that’s Slow Food.
Farmer D: Okay.
Josh: Slow Food is also a movement. It’s a movement of people who are pushing to create a world where everyone can have that food. And then Slow Food’s also an organization, and that organization helps actually organize people into local chapters to do grassroots work around it, and then to do national work around it. So, on the ground, these chapters are creating -- like farm for school programs is one of the things they do. They’re also hooking up local producers, local consumers, introducing chefs to local farmers, so that they can use their products. They’re helping do distribution. So, if a lot of meat growers in a particular area don’t have a way to have a market, they’ll have a drop-off point and help distribute that meat. They’ll do basically anything they need to do to fix the food system where they are. Slow Food in schools, this idea of farm-to-table is popping right now. And so, we’ve got probably 60 chapters now that are running farm-to-school programs all over the country.
Farmer D: What is causing this explosion, from you traveling around, seeing all these things going on? What is it that’s causing it?
Josh: What is it that’s causing it?
Farmer D: Yeah.
Josh: Things are really messed up. I think that’s the first thing. Things are really messed up, and it’s hurting our kids. And I don’t think that there’s a stronger human impulse than to help our kids. And we’re seeing that our food system, particularly in our schools, is making our kids sick. And so parents are just organizing to fix it.
Farmer D: What happened? How did we get to where we are, where the food in the schools is such a problem, and why is it such a problem?
Josh: Everyone pays taxes. We pay our taxes. That money gets spent by the government to make the kind of society we want. Right now, it’s getting spent to make a lot of cheap food, more than we need, that then gets turned around onto our school system, and makes our kids sick. We actually spend more money on our taxes to incentivize our schools to buy that cheap food that we overproduce. If we took that money and instead said, “Hey, we’re going to spend this money on our local schools, but only if they buy food that makes our kids healthy” -- they’ve got to buy local, sustainable food and set up school programs that have gardens in them, so kids are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables, but those fruits and vegetable are locally produced -- if we do that, we’re taking our tax dollars, and instead of poisoning our kids with them, we’re making our kids healthy. We’re also helping --
Farmer D: Strengthening our local economy.
Josh: Strengthening our local economy. We’re reducing our carbon footprint, and there’s a lot of research out there showing that these kids are going to perform better in school.
Farmer D: So what, can people -- obviously, you can go to SlowFoodUSA.org?
Josh: SlowFoodUSA.org, check it out.
Farmer D: Learn more. What else?
Josh: Join Slow Food.
Farmer D: Join Slow Food.
Josh: Become part of that.
Farmer D: What else can people do in their everyday life, right now, tonight for dinner, you know, to change, to be a part of this solution?
Josh: Yeah. Well, I guess first I would say take a moment and reflect on the story behind the food you eat.
Farmer D: Take a moment to reflect upon the story of the food you eat.
Josh: Yeah, there’s a story behind your food. It’s about the economy. It’s about people. It’s about land. Just try to get conscious of it. Once you’re conscious of it --
Farmer D: Slow down.
Josh: Yeah. Once you’re conscious of it, then try to find food that has a story that doesn’t bother you. Find a story that maybe you’d like. And I think the best way to do that is to reach out to a farmer, if you can.