Slow Food International, a non-profit grassroots organization, was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and spread awareness about how food affects the consumer as well as the environment. The organization aims to promote the consumption of fresh, high-quality local foods that are produced using safe and fair practices.
Donna Reno, leader of Slow Food’s Miami chapter, says food consciousness is “coming of age in this country.”
“We believe in the pleasure of the table combined with the responsibility towards the environment,” Reno said.
The movement was sparked in 1986 when journalist and activist Carlo Petrini campaigned against the opening of a McDonald’s at the Spanish Steps, a monumental stairway in Rome. He protested the restaurant’s opening by serving fresh, “real” Italian food at piazzas throughout the country. Although Petrini’s protesting was unsuccessful, Slow Food took off three years later.
“When western food culture arrived in Italy it could barely survive, even though it was gaining popularity all over Europe,” Reno said. “Petrini’s movement had an effect all over the European community and now it is all over the world.”
Slow food boasts 85,000 members internationally and more than 16,000 members in the U.S. The organization is now attempting to work with college students to start Slow Food on-campus chapters.
Katy McNulty, 23, a student at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, is currently in the process of starting a Slow Food chapter on her campus.
“As students, we have a lot of energy,” McNulty said. “We also have access to a number of facilities, and with a huge student population it is easier to spread the word.”
“There is a great emphasis on preserving our connection with the people who grow and cook our food and coming together to eat the food.” McNulty said.
Reno said there are currently no campus chapters in South Florida, but people are quickly “waking up to it.” Slow Food Miami, established in 2003, was the first and only chapter in Florida. There are now 10 chapters around the state.
Science educator Scott Lewis is a member of Slow Food Miami and has attended several of the chapter’s monthly events.
“The [events] are a fun way to connect with food-conscious people,” Lewis said.
Lewis worked with University of Miami faculty to organize a food ethics conference at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
“It is important that people enjoy food slowly in the company of others, rather than in a drive-through as fast as they can,” Lewis said.
Slow Food Miami will be hosting its next event at Fairchild Tropical Garden on September 21.
To learn more about Slow Food Miami, visit www.slowfoodmiami.com.