Slow Food Leaders: Taylor Pate

by Julie Kunen, Slow Food USA

Digging Into the Local Scene

Taylor Pate has a direct line to local farmers throughout the northeastern U.S. Her job is all about working with local producers to increase the sustainability of our food system. A member of the supply team at the Dig restaurant group, she works to source produce for all the group’s restaurants in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. This means that she interacts daily with farmers throughout the region to identify available fresh produce and then collaborates with the menu team to help inform what the restaurants can serve based on that availability.

Before joining Dig, Taylor worked in food policy around hydroponic farms in schools in New York City. She has a Master’s degree in food security and development, and is a member of the board of Slow Food New York City, where she supports a program called Urban Harvest. The program has two prongs. One is a summer community garden program for neighborhood children in East New York, where the kids learn about cooking and nutrition and do hands-on projects like canning. The other provides access to garden education programming for teachers in NYC schools. Taylor first learned about Slow Food in college, when she studied food and did some farming herself. After a stint in London for graduate school and connecting more directly with Slow Food, she returned to New York for a position as food policy fellow for Slow Food USA.

Our regional, local food system is based on this movement.  I think that’s pretty incredible. The ethos of the organization exists beyond the organization itself… Slow Food chapters are the body of what Slow Food USA is doing.  People go far with the work they are doing locally. Our food system is drastically changing. People have a keen interest now in understanding their food, especially because of climate change.  Food goes well beyond just diet.”

The Slow Food Impact

Taylor says that although people may not have heard of Slow Food as an organization, they have heard of the movement and have absorbed its values. The idea of sourcing locally, knowing your local farm, looking back at Indigenous cultures and cuisines, and thinking about seasonality and regionality are concepts, now widespread, that have been supported by the Slow Food movement.

“Our regional, local food system is based on this movement,” she says. “I think that’s pretty incredible. The ethos of the organization exists beyond the organization itself… Slow Food chapters are the body of what Slow Food USA is doing. People go far with the work they are doing locally. Our food system is drastically changing. People have a keen interest now in understanding their food, especially because of climate change. Food goes well beyond just diet.”

Healing Our Food System

Taylor’s entire working and non-working life is dedicated to food. “I hope my impact is that more people — whether through my work in Slow Food, at Dig, or sharing food with friends — have greater knowledge and greater access to fresh, quality, local food.” She says the future of food should focus on diversifying leadership:

“I would like to see more black and brown and Indigenous farmers leading the food movement. A lot of them are, but [I’d like to see them] leading more with knowledge, ideas, and skills, whether about growing food or sourcing food… A lot of people in power don’t necessarily have Indigenous knowledge. They have privilege and access to resources, but our food system was built by black and brown people and that’s how we are going to heal our food system. People can support this change every day by finding out where you can access produce grown by non-white people, and by reaching out to organizations led by non-white people. We should support these organizations because they are built to support the people who need it the most.”

Taylor Pate on the farm