In Food, Slow is the New Fast
Summer 2012 | CoatNotes by Jae Easterbrooks
What is the Slow Food Movement and what has its impact been on the west coast food system in the United States? It’s clear that awareness of Slow Food and of our food system has been growing substantially in recent years.
To this point, the organization Slow Food International is active today in 153 countries with 100,000 members worldwide, a quarter of whom are Americans, working to promote good, clean and fair-trade food. It’s especially encouraging that the growth in chapters, called “convivia”, has tripled the number of countries active in this international movement in just the last five years.
The Slow Food Movement began in 1986, led by Carlo Petrini, a farmer from Turin, Italy. In the mid-80s, Petrini recognized that the industrial food system, driven by the need to deliver cheaper food to consumers, was reducing taste quality and food varieties in its effort to control costs.
Concerned that this system was irreperably changing our natural food options, Petrini worked tirelessly to educate consumers about the repercussions of fast food and the homogenization of products within the retail food channel. He rallied supporters wherever he could, speaking at conferences, events and at any other opportunity in order to engage thoughtful conversation. Soon thereafter Slow Food International was born.
Twenty-six years later, Slow Food USA has more than 200 convivia active in the U.S. Of these chapters, 54 are located in the three west coast states served by Beneficial State Bank—CA, OR and WA.
It should come as no surprise that serving the sustainable agricultural community is a high priority of Beneficial State Bank’s beneficial banking mission.
The convivia provide a support system for the sustainable food community to channel financial and other important resources to specific initiatives and campaigns. Foremost, these food chapters continue the work of advancing Americans’ awareness of the social, economic and environmental impact of the food choices we all make every day.
Examples of Slow Food USA’s programmatic support include: advocating for local and regional consumption, safeguarding biodiversity, advancing education and general food knowledge of younger consumers, and connecting people from across the U.S. with the people who grow their food.
In a time when obesity rates are historically high, and many are struggling to keep their daily costs low, the need to educate consumers to consider the true cost of food—from the healthfulness to the flavor advantage to the carbon impact of sourcing locally/regionally—has never been greater.
So what have been the impacts of the Slow Food movement in the United States? The rate of consumption of organically grown food has substantially improved over just two decades. U.S. organic sales have grown from $1 billion in total revenue in 1990 to $26.7 billion in 2010, significantly outpacing the growth in conventional food sales.
Moreover, organically certified cropland in America expanded from about 400,000 acres in 1992 to over 2.6 million acres in 2008. More people than ever are aware of the meaning of GMO and other industrially sourced ingredients in their food.
The Slow Food Movement deserves substantial credit for these improving trends. But its consumer’s voting dollars that has the capacity to ultimately transform the American food system.
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