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Report from Slow Food Hofstra Eat-in on November 19th

Slow Food Hofstra hosted an eat-in on campus during the Food Studies 01 class and connected through Skype with the Slow Food Youth Network in Ravenna, Italy. Beatrice Montanari also served as the delegated representative from Slow Food Italy and The Slow Food Youth Network Italy for the gathering.  Hofstra students brought their brown bag lunch and shared some pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and crackers as well as a heritage variety corn called maize that local farmer and Slow Food Hofstra member Mary Callanan brought in to share.  Mary presented on the different aspects of good, clean, and fair: from how it relates to farmers in particular to the costs of growing and producing food in a sustainable way.  She also taught the group about the maize she brought in, a traditional variety which would have been grown by the indigenous people of the Americas.   We discussed the process of selective breeding in plants noting that many varieties today are grown for maximum sweetness to satisfy a modern western palate.   Maize has larger kernels that are encased in an outer shell than modern corn.  Preparing the maize so that it is digestible for humans is a long process that occurs over 2-3 days.  However, slow food processes, such as cooking with maize, have for generations supported the development of communities where different multigenerational families would work together in order to prepare a meal for everyone.

Mary’s presentation was followed by a group discussion between students. Members of Slow Food Youth Network in Ravenna were particularly interested in our university chapter and its work.  We explained that the group is just beginning but Hofstra students have already identified some things they would like to see implemented on campus to encourage more slow eating.  A big issue for students is access to fresh and affordable fruits and vegetables.  We discussed the possibility of starting a student run grocery store.  The other big issue for the students was having a place to cook food themselves.  Students have described the dorm kitchen facilities as not being convenient for cooking because there is no place to store the necessary cooking utensils such as pots and pans.  We resolved to work together to find a solution to these problems.  Many students were interested in attending bigger Slow Food events like Slow Food Nations and Terra Madre, so we discussed looking into potential funding to be able to send a student or two to these events in the future.

Some of the key take-aways from the Slow Food Youth Network Italy group responses to the Hofstra Chapter group questions were as follows:

  1. How did you get started as a group?   SFYNI gathered names and information of like-minded people and businesses in the area and created a map of who was interested.
  2. Most of the slow food people in Italy are “old” 50s and 60s.  They see a real need for young people to get involved.
  3. What have they prepared on their table?:  All ingredients were locally sourced for the meal they  prepared.  This was an important point that the Slow Food Italy group stressed.
  4. There is a critical need to engage the youth in issues related to Slow Food if we want to have a healthy planet.  Climate change issues are real, and how and what we eat can make a difference to our warming planet.
  5. We can each “vote with our fork” – We each have a choice 2-3 times per day with every meal.  We should be making good choices to ensure a healthy future for our planet and not waste food.
  6. What issues are most important to you and your group?:  Food for Change and Climate change issues are very important.
  7. What nations are most receptive to Slow Food?  African nations at this time seem to be most engaged in Slow Food.  Many African communities are in the middle of so-called “land grabs” and their traditional food production and consumption methods therefore face a greater risk of being lost.  However, many young people from these countries are getting involved to try and preserve their traditions.
  8. They suggested forming a cooperative to purchase food from local farmers.  This is what they have done and it makes it more cost effective for the buyer while at the same time larger order benefits the farmer too.
  9. Their final word included an invitation to Italy as well as this important message:
    •  Eat Local 
    • Eat Seasonal
    • Don’t waste food

This was a wonderful exchange and we look forward to more collaboration in the future.