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By Sara Weiner, Executive Director of Seedling Projects

We are thrilled that Slow Food founder and International President, Carlo Petrini, addresses the 2016 Good Food Awards in San Francisco, CA January 15-17.

At the call of the Good Food Awards, 1,462 jars of preserves, bags of coffee, bottles of honey, jugs of oil and wheels of cheese descended on San Francisco this September, where some of the nation’s finest tasty, authentic and responsible artisan foods became part the fifth annual Good Food Awards. To determine the winners, 200 food luminaries, chefs, writers, farmers and activists gathered in San Francisco for a day of sipping, sniffing and conversing.

The ultimate goal: to redefine “good food” in the eyes of the public by creating a simple signal for foods that exemplify both taste and sustainable production. To let people know they can expect more from the food in their shopping cart, and catalyze the $200 billion specialty food and drink industry – three times the size of the pork industry – into an economic force for local, sustainable grain, produce and livestock.

If the spirit behind this sounds familiar, it is no coincidence. The Good Food Awards are deeply rooted in the Slow Food movement, says Sarah Weiner, who created the project collaboratively with a group of leaders in the food movement. Weiner’s approach to food and life were deeply influenced by two years working at the Slow Food International office in Bra, where she authored the original Slow Food Companion and occasionally translated for Carlo Petrini (“not very well,” she offers). Upon receiving an offer she couldn’t refuse from Alice Waters, she moved to Berkeley, and met many of the community that would become collaborators for the Good Food Awards through her work as Content Director of Slow Food Nation.

{{ image(4021, {“class”: “flor round”, “width”:200, “height”:320}) }}“Without Slow Food, there would be no Good Food Awards. The values and community of Slow Food permeate nearly everything and everyone who is doing something interesting in the food movement,” Weiner states unequivocally.

Looking at the list of winners in recent years selected by organizers and judges, it is clear to see where this assertion comes from. Amongst 130 odd winners each year, one spots products like oil made from the Ark of Taste California Mission Olive, cheese made by Slow Food chapter leader Joel Weirach and a Spicy Brussel Sprout Relish from Ohio Terra Madre delegates Dan and Ann Trudel. Slow Food Nation Chocolate Curator David Salowich chairs the chocolate category, and the list of past judges reads like a Slow Food directory: Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, Michael Dimock, Renato Sardo and dozens more who have been staff, board members, governors, chapter leaders and key supporters of Slow Food.

Following the unspoken Slow Food philosophy that when people come together around food good things happen, the Good Food Awards convenes the winners once a year to celebrate in an Oscars-style, 800-person Awards Ceremony, followed by a public marketplace on hallowed ground: The Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture (site of the 2008 Slow Food Nation). The gala Awards Ceremony presents a unique opportunity to fete and break bread with some of the country’s more gifted food producers, and a limited number of tickets are available to the public (see www.goodfoodawards.org). Each producer receives their medal from Alice Waters and Carlo Petrini, and then everyone gets down to eating and drinking their way through the 130 winning products in a reception unlike any other, where the regional food landscape of our country is on full display.

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Of course, why stop at celebrating with 800 people when we can celebrate with thousands? Taking a page from the Salone del Gusto book, the Good Food Awards Marketplace on Sunday, January 17 brings the winners from several dozen states together to sample and sell alongside San Francisco’s great farmers. Many sell $4,000 worth of their Good Food Award winner in a single day, and each year there are reports of doubling, tripling and even quadrupling sales in the months following the Good Food Awards. Also on this day, Carlo Petrini will lead a discussion about the new mobile app, Slow Food Planet 1-2pm.

Soon everyone returns to farms, cities and towns. Shredding cabbage for sauerkraut or milking goats for farmstead caramels, the hubbub fades away. But anyone who has been to Terra Madre knows you don’t come back from a gathering of like-minded producers as quite the same person. And anyone who is part of the Slow Food movement knows that refusing to choose food that is not both tasty and responsible can have a mighty impact.