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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Labor Day Eat-Ins to Kick Off Slow Food's Campaign to Fix Food in Schools

Posted By on Tue, Jun 23, 2009 at 10:23 AM

Last year's Slow Food Nation eat-in at Dolores Park is serving as a national model. - SARAHMROOS/FLICKR
  • sarahmroos/Flickr
  • Last year's Slow Food Nation eat-in at Dolores Park is serving as a national model.
Remember Slow Food Nation, the sprawling food fest that gripped San Francisco over Labor Day weekend last year? Organizers had pledged it would be an annual event, with the likelihood that this year's fest would again take place in S.F.

This morning, Brooklyn-based Slow Food USA announced a change in plans that appeared to acknowledge lessons learned from last year's event. Instead of the confab of chefs, food artisans, and farmers, Slow Food USA is focusing on, well, just plain eating. This year on Labor Day, Slow Food is launching its Time for Lunch campaign with a series of nationwide community potlucks, called eat-ins.

Modeled after the eat-in that snaked through Dolores Park during Slow Food Nation last year, the idea is that local Slow Food chapters will organize communal meals in public spaces on Monday, September 7. Participants are asked to bring a cooked dish and begin to organize around Time for Lunch, a Slow Food initiative seeking to improve lunches and initiate farm-to-table curricula for the more than 30 million kids under the National School Lunch Program. Slow Food's ultimate goal? Influencing the Child Nutrition Act, which Congress will reauthorize later this year.

Slow Food USA president Josh Viertel told SFoodie the Dolores Park eat-in made a huge impression on him. "It was the most magical thing -- it just grew out of young people deciding to come together to cook foods in their apartments and come out to share them. It was grass roots, it didn't cost any money, it was celebratory."

Viertel said he was already aware of eat-ins tentatively planned for 57 cities and town in 34 states. He predicted more than a hundred eat-ins would ultimately take place, although he had no specific information about events in Northern California.

Like the Eat Real street-food festivals slated for Jack London Square and the Mission in August (organized in part by Slow Food Nation organizer Anya Fernald), the eat-ins seem to acknowledge that Slow Food Nation was too expensive to stage, too sweeping in its aims, and priced out too many would-be attendees. In the past year, Slow Food USA has focused on improving food in public schools. "Taking federal money and instilling nutrition and values in our kids is a great place to start to turn around problems with the environment, with health," Viertel said. "Kids are at horrible risk and are being disserved by this system, which is directly linked to federal policy."

"One thing I learned after Slow Food Nation is just how much energy there is nationally to do this work," Viertel said. "Volunteers all over the country, they all wanted to be where the next Slow Food Nation was going to happen. But, especially post-election, there's enough energy to do something all over the country on the same day."

Learn more about the eat-ins and Time for Lunch at Slow Food USA.

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