I knew Slow Food Nations would be a party, and not a party that was lacking in libations. The decorations hung over Larimer Street in downtown Denver, Colorado made this clear. Bright colors were everywhere and gaggles of people moved leisurely through the avenues, stopping to chat, sample, and connect. What I didn’t realize was how much knowledge I would come away with after a weekend at this gathering of Slow Food members from all over the country.


On Friday I attended the Leader’s Summit, a day-long event to discuss issues and ideas relevant to chapter leaders. We began with a bagel, yogurt, and granola breakfast to fuel our conversations and then broke out into focus groups. I followed a woman with a sleeve of vegetable tattoos to the Policy section where we discussed the new Farm Bill. There is so much important stuff included in this bill and it can be overwhelming to try to understand everything!

Important takeaways for me were to contact my representatives in the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forest and to advocate for Maintenance of the current Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which helps lower-income people buy healthy produce (and is based off a program that began in Michigan!).


We also talked at length about Slow Food’s new Manifesto for Equity, Inclusion, and Justice. How will this play out in my own work? I found myself thinking. I have to make sure I consciously reach out to people of different races, classes, genders, and sexual orientations to be involved in the events we plan and the Slow Food West Michigan Board. I need to listen more to all people and help them elevate their stories, especially those who are disadvantaged farm workers or restaurant service workers. I also need to take an honest look at how white supremacy, economic exploitation, and cultural domination have fundamentally shaped the agricultural history of the US.  Here’s an article to start that education: https://www.thenation.com/article/the-future-of-food/

A beautiful presentation was given by the Native American people of Slow Food Turtle Island about the importance of land and food traditions to the preservation of their heritage.

And then we were off, onto the festival portion. The festival itself was a whirlwind of food samples, panel discussions, meeting farmers and foodies and chefs.  I chatted with a mother and son who work with honeybees. They emphasized the importance of bees for biodiversity and sweetened the talk with tastes of bourbon barrel aged honey. I munched on crickets raised on Rocky Mountain MicroRanch and learned of their 60% protein content and potential for becoming a very sustainable source of protein (if we squeamish Americans can get used to eating a whole animal!). I sampled so many cheeses I lost track of the differences between them all. The festival culminated with an enormous meal that used all leftovers from the weekend’s samplings and workshops and transformed them into a feast! This family-style meal was delicious and cut down greatly on the food waste of the festival, adding to its sustainability.

 


More than anything, I felt surrounded and supported by tons of people who cared. Everyone in attendance loved food, loved the planet, and wanted to advocate for the people involved in getting food from our planet into our mouths. There is so much work to be done in expanding the accessibility of healthy, fresh food and making the food system more equitable, but there are also many people and great momentum behind this work. I left inspired to bring back what I’d learned to Grand Rapids and to continue to connect with those passionate people already doing great work in this community. (Also, I want to cook crickets!). Can’t wait for Slow Food Nations 2019!