Are We Elitist?
Recently Michael Howell, Convivium Leader of Slow Food Nova Scotia – Mainland, replied to a letter from a Nova Scotia resident claiming that Slow Food is “elitist and unwelcoming.” This is part of his response.
Slow Food has been stigmatized with an elitist label for some time, mostly because of a lack of awareness from the public about what Slow Food activities really are.
Did you know that we are deeply committed to promoting healthy lunch programs and school gardens, here in Nova Scotia, across Canada and in dozens of other countries?
Did you know that Slow Food is involved in myriad projects like getting drinking water and improving irrigation systems delivered to needy areas in African countries like The Congo? That in many food policy councils around the world, including our new one here in Nova Scotia, almost all have Slow Food members volunteering their time and energy to shape a better food future for all?
That it is deeply important to Slow Food and rural economies to support small scale producers in as many ways as possible? That preserving indigenous and traditional food cultures is central to the mandate of Slow Food? That growing the Terra Madre Network of global awareness is the new future for our organization?
The problem for Slow Food has been that many of the highest profile events like dinners with chefs tend to be the most publicized, in part due to the celebrification of chefs globally. Expensive dinners sound a bit vainglorious and self-serving, but these activities end up raising valuable funds for other projects not nearly so sexy, and far more in keeping with the Slow Food ethos of GOOD CLEAN FAIR food for ALL. And in almost ALL cases, the food used at these events is delivered up by individual, small scale producers, not conglomerates or Foodservice distributors. Those farmers/fishers are paid for their food, thus benefiting rural economies. And most often the money afterwards is used for good projects. We will donate a substantial portion of our proceeds from this year’s Spring Supper to Feed Nova Scotia.
The majority of our activities are actually what we call Food Education activities, where our members and guests visit a producer, farmer or site (and yes sometimes a restaurant) and taste food and learn about it. These are almost always inexpensive (usually no more than $15 here in Nova Scotia and include a meal) and the money raised goes TO THE FARMER to cover his or her costs. Our volunteers (I and people like me) give hundreds if not thousands of hours a year trying to help other people eat better.
To us, trying to get people to buy or grow good healthy local food is the central tenet of our activism, not to have booze laden dinner parties for the wealthy. Even the most philanthropic of organizations, even churches, fundraise, and we must do the same. And we work with partner organizations to facilitate cooperative action. And to be perfectly honest, some of our promoted activities (like having a potluck with friends that celebrates local food traditions) have no cost other than purchase of the food to do so.
Please visit the Slow Food website and take the time to explore it a bit to see the depth and breadth of activities that we are engaged in globally. In so many cases, it is what our organization does in the undeveloped world that is equally or in some cases more important that what we do here.
To answer your last question – Yes I DO believe that Slow Food is the best way to promote a slow life, growth of the Terra Madre network and a healthy happier existence for all.
Michael Howell Leader – Slow Food Nova Scotia – Mainland