Editor's note: Over the weekend, we sent Serious Eats San Francisco correspondent Jennifer Maiser to Slow Food Nation. This is her final dispatch from the event.
I left Slow Food Nation yesterday feeling extremely conflicted, and I am not the only one. Some friends who are exemplary students of the slow food way of life avoided the event entirely, choosing instead to preserve their local bounty, have delicious meals, and volunteer at a local farm. One coined the phrase, "slow food is for life, not just for Labor Day," which I just love because it is a reminder that a lot of us live the "slow" way of eating every day by eating food from artisan producers, making our own healthy food, buying locally, and being deliberate with our food choices.
This was the first year of the Slow Food Nation event, and given the way that the site declares this to be the "first annual event of Slow Food Nation," I assume that we will see Slow Food Nation return next year.
My prescription for a better event next year would include the following:
- Quit making it so darn difficult for us to get on the Slow Food bandwagon. Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food, alienated many in the San Francisco sustainable food community last year when he chose to pick on our farmers market. And then, just as that wound was healing, Corby Kummer, a Slow Food board member told the New York Times that Slow Food Nation "Will be a failure if it is only well-dressed people over 35 from the Bay Area treating it as if it’s another Ferry Plaza Farmers Market." The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is the San Francisco's largest farmers market. While it is often slammed unduly in the press for high prices and precious food, it's a place where tens of thousands of sustainable food supporters shop on a regular basis. The Kummer comment left me and others confused and frustrated. Read literally, it means that he didn't want me at Slow Food Nation.
- Add a community service component to the Slow Food Nation program. Having 60,000 converge on San Francisco in the name of good, healthy, sustainable food is an amazing, unprecedented thing. Let's corral some of that energy to build or bolster urban gardens, educate children in one-day school presentations, cook healthy meals for the homeless, and teach low-income mothers how to make a quick, healthy meal for their families. If a fraction of the Slow Food Nation participants made a half-day commitment during the event, we could make an impact that is felt throughout the city.
- Publish the Changemakers Day sessions as a series of podcasts. Changemakers Day was a part of the program aimed at leaders who are focused on sustainable food systems, and many of us could benefit from hearing the deeper discussions going on among sustainable food leaders.
- Ditch the rock concerts, or explain to me how they relate to Slow Food Nation's mission.
Being the eternal optimist, I have high hopes that this event can only get better. I hope that Slow Food Nation participants will use the event as a springboard for new ideas, new projects, and new ways of eating. And I hope that the organizers of Slow Food Nation work to refine their goals, diversify their target audience, listen to our feedback, and figure out how to help us get healthy, sustainable, and delicious food to all Americans.
About the author: Jennifer Maiser writes about locally and sustainably grown food. She is the founder and editor of the Eat Local Challenge website and writes at Life Begins at 30, her personal weblog.