Since 1998, Slow Food USA, the American branch of the Slow Food organization, has spearheaded community organizing and national policy initiatives advocating sustainable, local food. Two years ago, 30-year-old Joshua Viertel became the organization’s first president. He talked to GOOD about what his organization is doing to further the cause of locally grown, sustainable food.
GOOD: The idea of local, sustainable food has taken off in recent years. But is this movement just a fad, or the beginning of a real change in how we eat?
JOSHUA VIERTEL: I don’t see it as a fad. I think that once people have that experience of growing their own food, or going to a farmers’ market, or cooking from scratch, it’s really hard to go back.
G: But what happens in two years when, for instance, people aren’t canning anymore to save money? What do you do then as an organization?
JV: We still have a bad food system. The recession hasn’t solved that. It’s brought a lot of attention to the issue ... and as we start to have more resources, it will be easier to address the problems we noticed when the resources were scarce.
G: How do you respond to people who say that living the slow food life isn’t an achievable goal for anyone but the wealthiest?
JV: The issue, for me, is that real food is not a privilege, it’s a universal right. No one should have to make a choice between their kids eating food that is going to make them sick or eating food that is bad for the environment, and them eating food at all. That’s just a false choice. And the fact that we have to deal with that at all is a gross injustice.
G: So if this inspires people, what can they do?
JV: Shop at a farmers’ market. Join a CSA [Community Supported Agriculture]. Cook food from scratch. More broadly, get involved with what is now a growing social movement to change the way food and farming work in this country. Slow Food can help you do that. If you join Slow Food, you get involved in that fight more directly. But whether or not you join Slow Food, get involved in that fight.
Photo by Tribble & Mancenido