This is the second in a series of three blog posts recapping School Garden Spring Break, Slow Food USA’s national conference in April 2016. As we look to the organizational future of Slow Food, Spring Break certainly reaffirmed our new strategic direction, which highlights three buckets of work: gatherings, campaigns, and partnerships. Over the next few weeks, this series of blog posts will highlight these areas.
In addition to the gathering of dynamic and passionate people, Spring Break was full of popular topics, which could easily translate into school garden-related campaign ideas for Slow Food USA. Participants shared their favorite workshops as part of a post-conference survey and themes have clearly emerged:
Diversity and Inclusion
“I wanted to let you know how grateful I am that you made the effort to bring
Anna MulèExecutive Director
Anna MulèExecutive DirectorAnna (she/her) joined Slow Food USA in 2016 after working in digital storytelling and teaching multimedia production. She began as the director of communications and campaigns before becoming executive director in 2019. In these roles, she has amplified the voices of the network, introduced national campaigns that promote biodiversity and sustainable agriculture, and developed partnerships with chefs, leaders, companies, and communities around the world. With a master's degree in ethnomusicology and journalism from Indiana University, Anna was first drawn to Slow Food by its joyful combination of food, culture and diversity. She grew up in rural upstate New York, where her family raised turkeys and made their own sausage, and has lived in Vietnam, Uganda, and Papua New Guinea. Now, she lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and young son, a lover of trains and construction vehicles. They spend their free time riding trains, biking and exploring NYC.
Brian SolemDirector of Communications
Brian SolemDirector of CommunicationsBrian (he/him) serves as the director of communications for Slow Food USA, which means he oversees all digital channels, marketing/PR and storytelling efforts for the national movement. He has spent the last 13 years as a nonprofit marketing and communications leader, most recently as the senior director of communications for AIDS Foundation Chicago and the communications co-chair of Getting to Zero Illinois. Food studies and food justice work have been core elements of Brian's life over the last decade: He is the co-founder of food literary journal Graze, a former board member and board vice president of Chicago's Dill Pickle Food Co-op, and an active member and cofounder of Portage Park Mutual Aid, a mutual exchange network in his neighborhood in Chicago.
Colles StowellSlow Fish Strategist
Colles StowellSlow Fish StrategistA seafood-loving New Orleans native, Colles is the Slow Fish North America network coordinator and a member of the Oversight Team. As network coordinator, he helps direct the network’s strategic planning efforts, long-term growth and advocacy, gatherings, webinars, and messaging. He co-manages the Rising Tide program, which brings seafood with values discussions to Slow Food communities across the country. He also serves on the Slow Food USA Farm and Food Policy Team. Colles launched the non-profit One Fish Foundation in 2015 to bring the sustainable seafood message into classrooms (from elementary to graduate school) as well as communities. The foundation’s mission: encourage people of all ages to care about where their seafood comes from, how it was harvested or grown, and the benefits of supporting community-based fisheries. He lives and works on the ancestral lands of the Wabanaki people in Yarmouth, Maine.
Dan MuellerEquity, Inclusion and Justice Strategist
Dan MuellerEquity, Inclusion and Justice StrategistDan (she/her or they/them) serves as the Equity, Inclusion and Justice (EIJ) Strategist for Slow Food USA. Dan has been in the nonprofit sector for her entire career, working with over 20 nonprofits and volunteering with both AmeriCorps and the United States Peace Corps. Her degree in Intercultural Communication and desire for cultural exchange has sent her to Belize, Jamaica and Puerto Rico to support grassroots community development initiatives in education, agriculture and sustainability. Dan is currently a graduate student at the University of San Diego, pursuing a Master of Arts in Peace & Justice at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies.
Danielle Martin-JensenFair Curriculum Coordinator
Danielle Martin-JensenFair Curriculum CoordinatorDanielle is supporting the development of the Fair curriculum for school garden leaders.
Deion JonesDirector of Network Engagement
Deion JonesDirector of Network EngagementDeion (he/him) serves as the Director of Network Engagement for Slow Food USA, which means he leads efforts in network growth, troubleshooting, and providing tools to network leaders and members. Food has been, and continues to be, a passion for Deion throughout his academic and professional endeavors. Both his undergraduate, from Florida Gulf Coast University, and graduate work, from University of Oregon, centered on food, focusing on sustainable sourcing and immigrant identity through food, respectively. Beyond academia, Deion dedicates his time to seeing as many corners of the food realm that he studied, from urban and rural farms and food banks with Feeding America, to public health and one of the best farm-to-table fine dining establishments in the world, Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
Gabriela HasajPrograms Coordinator
Gabriela HasajPrograms CoordinatorGabriela (she/her) is Slow Food USA's programs coordinator, which means she assists the director of programs with all aspects of the programs department, from helping to run meetings to managing timelines of overlapping projects and events. Gabriela is a first-year law student at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, where she is pursuing an advanced certificate in both environmental and international law. She hopes to build a career in the food and agricultural sector supporting communities through economic development, international cooperation, and environmental sustainability. Gabriela spent most of her childhood growing up in Vermont, where she taught snowboarding at Stratton Mountain for seven seasons. She received her undergraduate degree in Political Science and a Paralegal Certificate from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Through Marist’s Freshman Florence Experience, she had the pleasure of studying at the Lorenzo de’Medici Italian International Institute. She also spent a semester studying at American University in Washington, DC through the Washington Semester Program. While in DC, she interned in Representative Sean Patrick Maloney’s office on Capitol Hill. During her undergraduate years, she also worked as a Grant Manager for a local bilingual media network called ABC Latino and spent most summers interning as a Paralegal for an immigration attorney. Upon graduation, she accepted a position at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a foreign policy think tank headquartered in New York City. In addition to English, Gabriela is fluent in Polish, Spanish, Italian and French.
Makiah JosephsonCommunications Coordinator
Makiah JosephsonCommunications CoordinatorMakiah (she/her) serves as the communications coordinator for Slow Food USA, which means she assists the director of communications with digital channels and content for the organization. She gained a strong passion for global cuisine and world travel after exploring new countries and learning to cook different cuisines. Makiah is from Diamond Bar, California, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Communication through Southern New Hampshire University. She has spent the past five years involved in study abroad and volunteering in Europe and Southeast Asia. She joined a Swedish immigrants' organization called New to Sweden during the COVID-19 pandemic and contributed her skills to their social media and marketing team. Makiah hopes to pursue a second master’s degree in gastronomy in the future.
Mara WeltonDirector of Programs
Mara WeltonDirector of ProgramsMara (she/her) serves as the director of programs for Slow Food USA, which means that she cultivates, develops and hosts nationwide programs and campaigns while coordinating and collaborating with global network leaders. Food production and access has been Mara’s passion for over 30 years as a farmer/chef business owner and community organizer. She volunteered abroad with the United States Peace Corps and US AID working towards village food sovereignty. Mara is based in Vermont and has served on many local boards, most recently the board of Helping And Nurturing Diverse Seniors, connecting seniors to healthy and culturally relevant food. Mara’s 20 year career in farming brought her to Slow Food with the campaign for Biodiversity and the Ark of Taste. She served for 10 years as the Chapter President of Slow Food Vermont and Regional Councilor for Slow Food USA. She currently owns and operates a seasonal food cart celebrating her native American Southwest.
Patricia HennessyDevelopment Manager
Patricia HennessyDevelopment ManagerPatricia (she/her) serves as the development manager for Slow Food USA, which means she leads fundraising efforts and cultivation strategies for the organization and serves as a resource for chapters and communities. Patricia has worked in the nonprofit sector for 20 years doing program management and leading fundraising efforts focused on public health and education. For the past six years she has worked as an independent consultant on an array of projects exclusive to small and mid-scale food and farming operations helping clients on business development strategies, finances and marketing. Patricia holds a Master’s in Public Administration degree from Seattle University (2000) and in 2016 earned a Certificate in Education focused on edible curriculums from Antioch University Seattle. to help reality check our visions of inclusiveness. It’s hard but essential work that benefits us all.”
–Spring Break Participant
We are always trying to better integrate the “fair” component of Slow Food’s mission of “Good, Clean and Fair Food for All”. In February, I attended the Massachusetts Horticultural Society School Garden Conference where I heard an incredible anti-oppression talk. After hearing this presentation, I knew we had to bring the speaker to Spring Break to be our opening speaker.
Our Keynote address “Planting a Promise: Equity and Inclusion in School Gardens” was delivered by Liz Wills-O’Gilvie, Chair of the Gardening the Community Board, member of the Steering Committees of the Springfield Food Policy Council & Pioneer Valley Grows, and Project Advisor to the Massachusetts State Food System Plan. Petite with a big presence and warm disposition, Liz described herself as the only black and bald woman in the room.
One participant commented, “I am a white woman so I am answering this question from this lens. And it bears mentioning because Liz’s keynote opened my eyes to the concept of being ‘color blind’ and how this is really unacceptable at this point in our society. All that said, I feel that your ‘effort’ [to make Spring Break more inclusive] were visible, that as conference organizers, you strived to make these topics a central part of the discussion and that inclusivity was a core component of the experience. There could have been greater diversity of races represented among the presenters but I think this is a systemic issue we need to deal with, not a reflection of this conference alone.”
Later we had a workshop titled “Gardens for Diversity, Inclusion, and Food Justice,” during which we discussed horticultural therapy, gardens and cooking classes to teach English language learners, and food donation programs. One participant “found the diversity, inclusion, and social justice [workshop] very good. It's a component that…many people don’t think about when it comes to school gardens, which can often be very focused on standards-based education and nutrition while leaving out many of the other positive impacts of gardens”. However, we also recognize that through creating a safe space for participants to share, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of this critical topic. In the future, we hope to integrate more on social and ecological justice, as well as increase participation from underrepresented communities.
Slow Food USA Curriculum
Another particularly popular workshop that could fit the bill for a Slow Food campaign was about our Good, Clean and Fair Curriculum curriculum. Our hands-on demonstrations of lesson plans from the Good and Clean School Garden Curriculum generated new interest in Slow Food garden programs, which we hope to share more widely moving forward. One individual noted “I liked all of the cooking classes, they showed me another way to implement the Slow Curriculum” and another shared the sentiment, “The “good” cooking skills demo was awesome because I will use what I learned right a way.”
It is crucially important to train our leaders, which as one participant put it, “leads to staying power and sustainability of school garden programs, which is the core of my work at the moment.” We heard presentations from several garden programs doing professional development that have adopted unique ways to train teachers on how to use the school gardens as a laboratory or extension of classroom activities. Participants were excited to take home lessons learned from these presentations and to incorporate them into their own programs. If you want to learn more about how we do school garden leader/teacher training, check out Slow Food USA’s Professional Development Series.
“We struggle with how to quantify and therefore justify our work.” – Spring Break participant.
Kyle Cornforth (Director of the Edible Schoolyard Project Berkeley) and Eva Ringstrom (Director of Impact for FoodCorps) co-presented on an ever-popular topic: evaluation of school garden programs and measuring impact of these programs on the students. One individual found it “really powerful to hear how organizations that have achieved notoriety in this space value and implement evaluation as part of their strategic growth.”
Ultimately, the success of school gardens depends on the long-term sustainability (including funding) or “staying power” (as FoodCorps puts it) of these programs. It’s a theme that garden leaders and nonprofit partners often contemplate – “it is what we are all working towards and it was very useful to hear others with the same challenges with yet others with stories of how they were able to overcome…” In this well-attended workshop, participants shared their own struggles in sustaining school garden programs. We then, as a group, brainstormed on ideas and best practices on how to overcome these challenges to the long-term sustainability of the gardens. We are all looking for the right formula for success and perhaps we have planted a seed with this group to find that path.
So it became increasingly clear that certain workshop topics and themes of discussion are more popular than others in the school garden world. As Slow Food attends and presents at future gatherings from the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference to the National Child and Youth Garden Symposium (NCYSG), we hope to bring our experience and expertise around the aforementioned topics.