Slow Food is a global, grassroots organisation with supporters in over 150 countries around the world which links the
pleasure of food with commitment to the community and the environment. Slow Food was initially founded by Carlo Petrini and a group of activists in Italy during the 1980s as an opposition against fast food. The aim was and is to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us. Defending regional traditions, good food, gastronomic pleasure and a slow pace of life are key elements of Slow Food. In over two decades of history, the movement has evolved to embrace a comprehensive approach to food that recognizes the strong connections between plate, planet, people, politics and culture.
Working as a cooking teacher, social worker and sustainability ambassador for Slow Food Frankfurt (Germany) allowed me to spend the summer of 2009 travelling across Frankfurt with a mobile kitchen built into a trailer: The Slow Food Van. Organised by no more than a handful of dedicated volunteers, Slow Food Frankfurt employed me to plan, implement, review and constantly improve the cooking curriculum. In just two months, I visited over 50 nurseries, kindergartens and schools. I was able to gain insight into child care and education systems as I connected with parents, teachers, and over 800 children of all ages and backgrounds.
Slow Food is all about conscious enjoyment and appreciation of food: We go on treasure hunts to the local market and get to know the vendors and produce. We take time to prepare the dishes. And we sit down to eat and we share the food.
The position provided me with a large amount of freedom, flexibility and responsibility. I was in charge of designing child-friendly recipes, sourcing local, regional and sustainable produce, and inspiring children to prepare and taste whole foods and healthy dishes that were often entirely new to them. Taking children to the local market and getting them to speak to vendors and farmers helps children to learn to take responsibility for their purchase decisions, food choices and eating habits.
Usually, the Slow Food Van would stay parked up on the school yard for a couple of days to give each and every child a chance to visit the mobile kitchen and cook, taste and explore with us.
It always puts a smile on my face to hear excited children telling each other about the cooking sessions and market visits or boast about the recipe that they tried to replicate at home.
Working with a bunch of curious children is pure joy, but what makes this kind of work special for me is the impact that you can have on each and every child on an everyday basis in terms of health awareness, food choices, and environmental concern. I treat these interactions with the utter most respect and appreciation.
When I returned to London to resumed my psychology studies after the summer, I decided to take Slow Food with me. With the help of some friends I set up Slow Food on Campus, a university society dedicated to bringing people together to share their knowledge, skills and experience, and their passion for good food!
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