Slow Food Columbus

First Principles

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The past few years have brought some changes at Slow Food USA, changes that might leave members wondering about the principles behind the organization and behind their local chapter. It makes sense for us, in advance of our Annual Meeting, to lay out a statement of what those principles have been, and what we hope they will continue to be.

In past years, Slow Food developed a reputation as an elitist organization, largely because of its emphasis on being willing to pay the visible premium associated with good, clean, and fair food. To its credit, the organization took the criticism, in part because it took the long view: the invisible premium on conventional food, measured in terms of environmental degradation and health, would come closer to evening the price than most consumers realized. But elitism is an easy charge to make, a difficult one to evade, and a problematic one for a growing organization. More to the point, there was a growing sense that the emphasis on the best, cleanest, and fairest food excluded many Americans who could not afford it on a regular basis.

Accordingly, there has been a recent shift at Slow Food USA toward an emphasis on lower-cost solutions that nevertheless maintain the standards of food quality. The outcome has been divisive: a recent Chow article, while mentioning the substantial growth in the organization, nevertheless noted prominent defections from the Slow Food fold. According to the article, Slow Food’s shift toward $5 dinners and away from supporting the organic farmers who have been its core constituents is responsible for the disbanding of the New Orleans chapter and for making Alice Waters cry.

We regret that New Orleans is without a chapter, and we hope that Ms. Waters is well. But frankly, we don’t understand the reason for the uproar.

We have always believed that Slow Food should be a movement for everyone. The organization’s shift in emphasis toward younger and less well-off members is welcome, and we seek to continue it and to share it ourselves. But in our chapter, it is not, and should not be, exclusive. We hope that the mix of events that our chapter has sponsored over the past few years speaks to that orientation. We seek, as our homepage has always said,

to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.

The quote never specified which people—and it shouldn’t. Slow Food should be a movement that is accessible to everyone on every rung of the socioeconomic ladder. Period. Some of those people have been, and will remain, the core supporters of organic and sustainable farmers around the country. Others may be soon. Still others desire to find the best, cleanest, and fairest options available to them.

It is incumbent upon our organization, and upon the chefs, farmers, and rank-and-file members who comprise it, to use our creativity and skill to realize that vision for everyone. That is our purpose.

If you share those goals, please consider joining Slow Food or keeping your membership current, and if you are a member, please consider proposing a new event.

Thank you.



  • Matt Feifarek

    Well said, and thanks, from Slow Food Madison

    • http://vermontslowfood.org Mara Welton

      Extremely eloquent. Thank you, from Slow Food Vermont.

      • Judiann

        Growing pains, I suppose. There is certainly room for all 100%, market dinners and $5.00 dinners. Thank you, from Slow Food East End.

  • http://Slowfooddenver.org Krista Roberts

    Thank you for a lovely reminder of what is important to all of us who are passionate supporters of Slow Food. Slow Food Denver

  • JIm Ellison

    Great to see the support from other chapters and a good reminder about the need for balance. For most current members – Slow Food Columbus is preaching to the choir. For the group and the larger movement to survive and thrive…and more importantly to achieve the mission – it must be accessible to all…and viewed as approachable to all.

    Organic is perceived as more expensive – but that is not always the case. For events with $70, $80 or even $100 pricepoint – even for a worthy cause alienates some and reinforces a stereotype of an elite movement the does not “undertsand” the needs of the younger and low to middle income earners in our communities. Slow Food Columbus has done a great job in the past year of appealing to a broad range of eaters and thinkers.

    The Athens, Ohio food community (Snowville Creamery, Shagbark, Intergration Acres, Green Edge Gardens, Casa Nueva, Frog Ranch, etc.) is near and dear to the hearts of many Slow Food Columbus members and the approach to food that the Athens Community has a model to aim for in Columbus and Ohio and elsewhere. We are what we eat and if we don’t eat well…the price and consequences are not worth a few extra pennies for convenience.

    Well Written SFC and good work in 2011

  • http://www.slowfoodtriangle.org Mark Overbay

    Well put. Thanks from Slow Food Triangle NC.

  • http://www.epicuriousity.net john haddad

    Well said ! Thanks from Slow Food RVA . ( Richmond, VA)

  • Clare Bobo, Slow Food Hawaii

    Mahalo nui for your clarity of purpose and putting out the idea that we can do and be it all!

    Aloha from Slow Food Hawaii (Big Island)

  • Bear

    Thanks immensely to Mr. Ellison and to all of the representatives of Slow Food chapters from around the country for taking the time to write. It’s been heartwarming for all of us here in Columbus to hear from all of you.

  • Rebecca Kardas

    Well stated! Thanks Bear!