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Slow Food's $5 challenge - Why exactly is this pissing people off?

I don't get it.

Chow has an article about Slow Food issuing the following challenge "You're invited to help take back the 'value meal' by getting together with family, friends and neighbors for a slow food meal that costs no more than $5 per person."


According to the Chow story, Slow Food's "most prominent members—famous cookbook authors, chefs, and leaders in the food movement—are embroiled in a bitter squabble stoked by angry emails, hurt feelings, accusations. According to one report, Alice Waters broke down in tears.



It seems the people turning their backs on Slow Food think "Americans should spend more of their income on sustainably raised food from farmers’ markets and artisanal producers, rather than looking for deals on cheap, nonorganic, mass-produced stuff."

Here's why I don't get this.

I live in the SF Bay Area ... home of Alice Waters ... which probably has some of the most expensive artisan food in the country. I have had zero problem putting together ONE Slow Food meal for $5. Unlike Chow's statement, it does NOT mean eating "greens, beans, and grains, and this month, maybe winter squash"

Five dollars? Hell, I'd be eating chicken, fish, artisan sausages, even beef and fish.

Let me give an example

One of those Slow Food type of chickens would set me back $15. A bunch of carrots at the uber-organic farm $2.50. A pound of organic yams $1.50. That is just an easy to put together example and would feed four people ... $5 each.

Ok, not included in there are spices, oil or butter ... however those are infrequent purchases. So for a single meal, using the Slow Food versions of those maybe another buck.

Being more creative I could come in under $20 but I wanted to put together a uncomplicated meal.

Slow food beef stew for $5 per person ... hell, yes.

So why is Waters and group getting their panties in a knot? I am paying the prices these artisan farmers are asking. They are asking prices that support their businesses.

And BTW, former Slow Fooders... those artisan farmers who you want to get paid their fair share are relying in illegal immigrants to harvest their crops who are not sharing in the bounty. Where's your concern for them?

You would think these people would WANT more people to think creatively and start looking at eating slow food.

LIke anything, there are things I won't be buying ... the $200 Heritage turkey, the $20 jar of jam ... but there are plenty of choices out there that easily accomodate that budget ... if people keep their eyes open and pay attention.

Slow Food has always annoyed the hell out of me. Usually these people seem to have zero concept about how the average person eats and a good many of their events have been eye-rolling absurd. This is the first practical thing I've ever heard them propose ... and it is enraging their prominent members?

So I don't get it. I moved this to the discussion forum because I want to do more discusstion than the Chow format accomodates.

Seriously, what is wrong with this picture?

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  1. I get it. It's not about cost, it's about philosophy, priorities and values. Changing those things for the average American....not pandering to the lowest common denominator in the equation. "Real" food can't compete with $1.00 value items from Mickey D's at this time in our history. I see it as a conflict between where we are right now vs where we want to go in the future. If we start "cheaping out" and trying to compete by cost alone- we will lose the battle.

    23 Replies
    1. re: sedimental

      The object is to make a Slow Food meal for the price of on Fast Food value menu meal - $5.

      And seriously, a regular fast food meal is running $6-$8 these days.

      What people SHOULD be aware of is that they CAN eat better than fast food for the same price. How is that cheaping out? These are the prices artisan farmers are charging. No one is asking them to cut prices ... only to buy from them.

      1. re: rworange

        I don't disagree that anyone can make a better meal for less than a value meal. Again, the point of contention is about philosophy, priorities and values...*direction*.... about where to go. "Cost" has never been the biggest "selling point" for the movement. I suppose many feel that it is "selling out" to go there now. I am not sure how I (personally) feel about that....I am a big slow food supporter, but I understand the contention.

        1. re: sedimental

          It seems the only issue is cost.

          I'm sorry to be so dense about this but what Slow Food seems to want is artisan and sustainable farmers to be paid appropriately for whatever they are selling.

          If that happens and people can do so for $5 a meal ... ???

          Otherwise it seems ... and this has always seemed this way to me ... that Slow Food is nothing but an elitist group who only want select members to participate.

          And if that is the case ... it is a shame.

          My mistake in thinking it was about supporting sustainable, earth-friendly food.

          As even Slow Food acknowledges in this challenge, even that isn't a reasonable price for many.

          I would doubt the average family of four is spending $20 per meal ... except when they eat at fast food joints.

          You know, Chez Panisse is one of my favorite restaurants in the world. I don't think I want to eat there anymore. I might sent Ms. Waters a note, though I doubt she would care if she ever saw the likes of me again.

          1. re: rworange

            I don't think you are being dense at all. I have worked with what is termed as the "difficult to serve" population (all below the poverty line) for over 30 years. There are more than you would care to think- that belong to this group.

            Much of that population *regularly* eats from the dollar menu, and feeds their kids *regularly* from the dollar menu (or boxed dinners from the discount stores, whatever)...5 or 6 days a week. If you ask them why...they will tell you that it is "cheap and easy"...they "like it". When you explain the values of food and choices they will tell you that they don't give a shit. Really. They don't. They don't spend their time reading articles on Chowhound and they don't tend to change their eating behavior even when faced with illness and disease. Breakfast consists of coffee and cigarettes before their fast food meal. We will never win the "hearts and minds" of that particular population. So.....why target that demographic? That IS the demographic you are targeting when you talk about convincing people to cook instead of buying value meals for 5 bucks. Everyone else that cooks and knows how to cook (but eats occasionally at fast food restaurants) doesn't need that kind of marketing or "incentive". they already know it.

            There are plenty of others that understand there is more to food and cooking than "cost". Those "others" are not swayed by cost alone. the other values are also important to them. That is not elitist.....that is practical, that is marketing. I think the division over philosophy and direction is legit. I bet there is no one on this Chowhound board that would be surprised to learn that they could make a nice meal for 5 bucks.

            So, although I don't have a big issue with it all, it makes me wonder who is thinking of these marketing strategies and where they are going with it. I could see where someone with a big vested interest in its success would have an issue with that direction.

            1. re: sedimental

              Well, you know ... that characterization of the, um, bottom feeders is a little elitist.

              But perhaps you are right that this is only preaching to the choir. There is a little video about people who talk about the taking up the $5 challenge and they all look like they are at the top of the 99%.

              Still, I don't see reason for the hissy fit. The people this campaign is going to appeal to don't give a shit and wouldn't participate even if they knew about it.

              So that just leaves the choir and their making a five buck meal certainly isn't going to cause the prices of local food to dive.

              I have less and less respect for the participants of Slow Food.

              I mean, what is the point of Waters school programs ... to show the poor what they will never be able to afford?

              I think philosophy about direction and a buck will get you a cup of McDonald's coffee.

              I guess I am just too oriented to be practical rather than sitting around theorising.

              To me it would be better to work politically to get local farmers subsidied so that everyone wins.

              I see absolutely no point to being insulted by the concept that it might just be possible that good food could possibly affordable and that the unwashed masses might not want to participate.

              And so to the non Slow Foodies ... let them eat Hostess cupcakes.

              Occupy Chez Panisse ... you know, if I wanted to I bet I could get the Berkeley Occupiers to take up some room on the grass strip near CP.

              1. re: rworange

                LOL. I am using the correct terminology.... "bottom feeders" would NOT be:)

                People in poverty with traumatic brain injury, dementia, profound physical disability with obesity, homeless, etc. really have many other things to worry about rather than cooking their every meal from scratch -or caring if their avocados come from Mexico or California. I am not disparaging that population, I understand them well. I am just pointing out that marketing slow food to them in this way seems a bit silly to me. But, hey....maybe I will start to see the homeless guy change his sign from "Need a job" .........to.......... "Need to use your kitchen".

                1. re: rworange

                  Another angle that you're missing here is that while the ingredient cost for assembling a meal might only be $5/head, there's a lot of kitchen infrastructure needed. Baking pans, knives, pots, racks, etc. If you're an average American who doesn't know the difference between sauté and stir-fry I don't see how this challenge applies.

                  1. re: Josh

                    Even in this day an age I think there are few people without kitchens or cookware.

                    That was not part of the challenge, only the raw ingredients. There was no account either for labor involved.

                    The people living without kitchens or even homes is not who this challenge is reaching out to.

                2. re: sedimental

                  Actually, as published in a recent study, the primary customer of fast food is the middle class, if you're looking to sway a market segment.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Oh, I don't doubt that. I don't think they will stop eating there occasionally because they now have an "education" that they could make a meal for 5 bucks. It is not about that for the middle class. It is much more about time and convenience than money.

                    1. re: sedimental

                      It takes practice to knock out a meal efficiently and within a budget. I feel that the benefit of the challenge is for some folks to learn by doing that it is indeed possible. Perfect a couple quick dishes and they'll learn that it can be more convenient to cook at home, besides being healthier, improving family time and spending more food dollars directly with the people that grow it.

                      1. re: sedimental

                        And that is just it. I think the $5 challenge was more to the middle class, not the bottom of the food chain.

                        I also don't think you were correct about most people on Chowhound knowing they could make a Slow Food type of meal for $5. I did a report a few years back on eating on $3 a day ... which included an organic week. Most Chowhounds said that was nice but they couldn't do it because ... the reasons were many.

                        There is so much that could be done to get more people aware of eating local and organic.

                        It is not just the poor and uneducated that need to be reached. Gordon Ramsey faced absolute hostility by educators when trying to improve the diet of school children on his failed tv show.

                        And what if Slow Food got people like Rachael Ray on board to make people aware that maybe instead of gussying up Hamburger Helper they could do the same thing cheaper, better, locally, organically usually with no more work and the same cost. Yeah, that is still a subset of people who would be interested ... but still ... I think every person that can be reached is important.

                        But thanks for letting me go on. I think I'm starting to get it.

                        Somehow I can't drop the perception that the real mission of Slow Food is to eat local and orgnanic where it is more about the rich. prominent people supporting artisan zoos and gardens of rare, precious food that they personally finance.

                        However, I should have known. Alice Waters was instrumental in moving the best farmers market in the area to a location without parking, cutting off access to the disabled and elderly, causing great farmers with unexciting but local produce to leave the market because most people weren't willing to lug a crate of potatoes two - three blocks to the parking lot or wait to pick up their produce at the valet stand.

                        Ms. Waters, of course, has vendors deliver to her personally or has her minions dispatched to the farmers market.

                        1. re: rworange

                          <<<<And that is just it. I think the $5 challenge was more to the middle class, not the bottom of the food chain.>>>>

                          Not according to the article. That's just it...they are trying to draw in a different demographic. They said they are targeting the "younger" and/or "less affluent" or "low income" consumers. Younger ...yes, I agree with the 5 dollar challenge. That could work. Not so much for the other IMHO.

                          Thanks for posting the article though. Don't give up on them too quick, rworange, I think there are many good people in that movement that are promoting good food values. There are nutballz in every organization :)

                          1. re: rworange

                            As I said (or at least implied) on the Chow article, my suspicion is that the $5 challenge didn't come along and rile up a movement that had been completely untroubled up until now.

                            Instead it was probably the straw that broke the camel's back over a longstanding ideological break within the movement between one group who thinks it's elitist to encourage people to eat more expensive food and another group that thinks pushing for cheaper 'slow food' undermines one of the fundamental causes of the movement.

                            As for this latter group - the thinking is that, for one, producers of high quality foods deserve to make a decent living. In fact, the continued and expanded production of said foods depends on the economic stability of its producers.

                            For another, it was in a very real sense the consumer demand for cheaper foods that has led directly to the abuses of big agriculture. It's cheaper and will always be cheaper to raise food animals in crowded conditions (using large-scale prophylactic antibiotics to increase yield and prevent the living conditions of said animals from killing them) than it is to raise them in humane conscientious conditions. Likewise it is cheaper and will always be cheaper to raise genetically modified crops, killing any competing plants with Round-Up, than it is to raise crops traditionally and organically.

                            IMO these points are hard to look past. Regardless of how harmless the $5 challenge might sound in isolation.

                            Also as I said on the other page, I think the problem in some ways is that Waters and her ilk have had a hard time making this case without being insulting or seeming disconnected from reality. Meanwhile, the other side sees accepting a high price for quality foods as economically elitist, when really supporting fair wages (for farmers and for Americans in general) is anything but.

                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              You make a good first point, this tension has probably been bubbling under the surface. In San Francisco we got a front row look at it in 2007 when Carlo Petrini visited.
                              And in 2008 when Slow Food Nation came to town.

                              What I have a hard time with though is that $5 is "cheap". That's not a small sum, and as others have pointed out, not difficult to achieve cooking at home with good, clean and fair food, at least where I live.

                              I cannot agree that antibiotic use and GMOs will always be cheaper. The long-term consequences of both will be more costly. The Danish experience with reducing and eliminating antibiotics seems very promising so far.

                              And GMO crop failure is showing the cracks in that unsustainable system.

                              And yes, if Alice has handlers, they're not doing a good job.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                What I have a hard time with though is that $5 is "cheap".
                                It doesn't matter whether $5 fits your subjective definition of 'cheap' or not. That's completely beside the point. The important thing is that Slow Food USA is trying to emphasize the affordability of 'slow food.' That's what's bringing this situation to a head.

                                "I cannot agree that antibiotic use and GMOs will always be cheaper. The long-term consequences of both will be more costly. The Danish experience with reducing and eliminating antibiotics seems very promising so far."
                                Of course the long term consequences will be costly. Anybody who buys into slow food at all will readily agree to that. But I'm not talking about societal costs above. I'm talking about the price tag the consumer sees when they go to a supermarket or a fast food restaurant.

                                You're jumping the gun on the Danish experiment. The article you cite (which isn't about GMO, btw, and ONLY addresses antibiotic use, leaving out other issues with large scale industrial animal husbandry) addresses productivity.... but not consumer price. They're often related but not always. Look at the article's explanation of Danish pork. Unsurprisingly, they found that when antibiotics were not used, the animals lost weight. To compensate, cages were cleaned more often, animals were allowed to get older, and animals were given more space. Problem solved. Great. But did any of that or even the increase in productivity actually lower the price of pork? Or more to the point, does anyone reading this thread live or spend time in Denmark? Care to tell us how much domestic pork shoulder or chicken or ground beef costs per pound over there? Bet meat costs more than it does here, and they practice factory farming as well.

                                Factory farmed foods are cheaper than that produced by small growers, and likewise factory farming without scruples produces cheaper food than more responsible factory farming. As a rule this is not debatable in absence of a complete revolution in production and economics comparable to the industrial revolution (there are probably a few exceptions, but they're economic anomalies). My point is just that it is unwise and unrealistic to think you can support fair wages and ethical farming and husbandry practices while simultaneously expecting food prices to compete with the alternative.

                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                  Right, the article is related to Danish pigs. I took "productivity" improvement to be something that would have a positive impact on price, but that's not necessarily true. Denmark is a leading pork producer. Someone once told me that it supplies most of the baby back ribs consumed in this country, so it shouldn't be hard to do a price check in the US.

                                  For food prices to be "competitive", they don't have to be at parity. Many consumers recognize the worth of local, organic, sustainable, they just don't want to pick up today's tab at full price. Here in California, consumer studies have looked at sussing out what that differential and willingness to pay ratio might be. My recollection is that they were on the order of 10 to 15% premium for organic over conventional. But I'll add that those were done prior to the economic recession, don't know what it would be today. I'd say the typical price difference between conventional and organic produce in the our local markets is about 30%, sometimes at parity and sometimes organic is up to 50% more, and it seems to be shrinking. There continues to be a consumer perception that organic is more costly than it really is, and I applaud Slow Food's efforts to show that it can be affordable. Otherwise, we're all sunk.

                                2. re: Melanie Wong

                                  Well, you both make good points and this was the type of dicuscussion I wanted despite my absurdist approach yesterday. When something seems absurd I'll respond in like manner.

                                  That second link to the article about Slow Food Nation's visit to SF in 2008, sort of sheds a little more light about the $5 issue.

                                  I think the comment about the 2008 event touches on what is going on in this issue

                                  "In the end, I think the vast ambition behind Slow Food Nation formed its weak point. By striving to embody and represent an entire movement -- from "artisinal" food culture to urban agriculture -- the event came off like a dreamer with his head in the clouds, disconnected from the struggle in the streets."

                                  That Victory Garden was one of my eye-rolling moments in terms of Slow Food and the article makes a good point about what I was saying earlier, to me it would be better if Slow Food used its clout and celebrity to push for more impurtant issues rather that wasting its efforts on something like the Victory Garden that just made them seem silly and pointless.

                                  The article says it better that Slow Food might be more effective "leveraging its political and social influence to open doors and generate resources that other groups do not have access to."

                                  Waters is in definate need of handlers, or better ones, otherwise she might just sabotage the very thing she is so passionate about.

                                3. re: cowboyardee

                                  Organic can be as productive as conventional farming and can be significantly more productive in drought years, according the latest reports from Rodale's side-by-side study, now in its 27th year. "In 4 out of 5 years of moderate drought, the organic systems had significantly higher corn yields (31 percent higher) than the conventional system." That should show up at the cash register.


                                  I'm a Slow Food member who was thrilled with the $5 Challenge. I help people learn to cook delectable, affordable food that minimizes human and animal suffering by adjusting their ingredients. Cook organic dried beans, rice, and seasonal, sturdy vegetables grown by well-treated workers; use the savings to buy artisan cheese, asparagus in season, go to Paris, or pay the rent. See my $5 Feast and learn more here:

                                  1. re: Cook for Good

                                    That's good news, but you're talking in microcosm. The food production industry is a lot bigger than the data represented in the study. There is room for many small exceptions to the rule - they don't mean industry is going to drop the factory, non-organic model any time soon. And organic vs non-organic does not cover all or even most of the slow food movement's objection to the factory farming system.

                                    Keep up the good work, but bear in mind when you make your voice heard that the problem is far bigger than just lack of cooking knowledge.

                          2. re: sedimental

                            I agree completely. And I say that as someone who IS at poverty level. Those at my level and below - and even those slightly above my level - truly, truly do not give a damn.

                            Why should they? It's accessible nearly 24 hours a day - it's highly advertised - it requires little effort or thought - it's "tasty", especially since their taste buds are trained towards overly salty, overly fatty, overly sweet foods, and furthermore it's addicting.

                            1. re: JReichert

                              I suspect you can say that about folks at all income levels. Last weekend I was out-of-state and chose a place for lunch that is known for growing its own vegetables and serving American food fast food format with better ingredients (and elevated prices to match), e.g., pizzas, hamburgers, shakes. A burger order comes with two sides, and the menu states that the default is a side of veggies and a side of fries. It was quite busy and I must have looked at over 50 lunch trays. Not a single one had any veggies, meaning that people had to state "hold the veggies, give me onion rings (or mac n cheese, etc.)" and actively say "no" to greenery instead. I was the only person eating vegetables in the whole place. The proverbial horse being led to water . . .

                            2. re: sedimental

                              That's interesting, I actually thought the $5/person would be directed towards middle class people....so people who don't necessarily eat from the dollar menu every day but are more likely to fill their diets with processed junk and not realize how unhealthy their choices are, but they think that eating "slow food" will blow their budgets. Most people I know fit into this category except for the ones who have taken an active interest in cooking, solidly middle/upper class people but don't have a clue about what they put in their mouths. Just for reference I am 28 and most of the people I am thinking of are in my mom's age range ~60. Since I've taken an interest in food, my mom has as well and I think some of her friends and their kids are too once they realize that slow food isn't some sort of thing that normal people can't embrace.

                    2. If you assume there will be no wine, then the $5pp idea makes sense.

                      I always commend souffles for the frugal spectacular dinner.

                      Start with a tomato soup - specifically Marcella Hazan's famous tomato sauce with butter and onion (which even Marcella admits is good as a soup right out of the pot - I think it's better as a soup than as a sauce, and I normally hate tomato soup)

                      Cheese souffle

                      Good bread

                      Green salad with vinaigrette

                      Roasted fresh fruit or poached dry fruit.

                      1. I think that you are missing the point. The problem is the implication that good food should be cheap. The many local farmers I know are just making ends meet, and market goers are, for the most part, not willing to pay higher prices for local, sustainable product.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: pikawicca

                          But then, $5 per person per meal at home is not considered cheap to a lot of people.

                          1. re: pikawicca

                            Maybe they should turn it around. Bad food is expensive.

                            I gag at the prices of fast food meals ... for chemical laden junk that is bad for our planet and bad for our health.

                            For a lunch I can spend as much if not more for something from Applebee's as I do at Chez Panisse.

                            Alice doesn't seem to be hurting financially.

                            So ... they want local organic food to be more expensive so fewer people can afford it, the farmer sells less and goes out of business entirely?

                            Does that really make sense?

                            It seems the $5 challenge makes people more aware that slow food is affordable, encouranging more people to buy it and increasing business for the local artisan and farmer.

                            1. re: rworange

                              Bad food IS expensive, but the costs are hidden. Air pollution from transporting "organic" foods from China, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the toxicity of freshwater fish in the U.S. due to water pollution...most folks don't want to think about these things when they're buying their cheap, crappy food at Walmart.

                              1. re: pikawicca

                                What I'd like to see more of is a continuum of choices, as in good, better, best, instead of an insistence that anything that Chez Panisse would not serve is garbage. Give middle income and low income people some good choices that bring their meals closer to the ideal.

                                And to cowboyardee, yes, I support revolution. But I realize that it will happen incrementally and in fits and starts.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  Sort of like the Monterrey Aquarium's seafood guide of best and worst seafood choices.

                                  I would also dance with the devil of Walmart.

                                  The reality is people shop there. I hope people will NOT start ranting about the company in general. I am more than aware of what it is ... but it is ... why not use it.

                                  I'll bet that would send Alice Waters to bed with the vapors claiming that the $5 challenge will lead to the road to Walmart.

                                  Walmart started selling organic food a few years ago. It hasn't been wildly popular and the product line gets cut more and more.

                                  Still, you can get cage-free organic eggs, Horizon organic milk and select organic foods in almost every department.

                                  When they put in fresh produce, some stores also had recipe cards ... in English and Spanish. It would seem to that working with Walmart to do some promotions and education about its sustainable food might, at the least, make people who otherwise wouldn't know or consider better choices more savy consumers.

                                  Again ... I am so NOT condoning Walmart practices ... but some of the stores in Mexico and Central America opened the market to small vendors. The Walmart in Vera Cruz, Mexico had a stunning selection of seafood that included fresh octopus. I have a bottle of plantano vinegar on my shelf from a local artisan that Walmart allowed to demo their product and sell in-store.

                                  Even Jesus worked with the lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors. He knew he wasn't there to preach to the choir ... many of whom were hypocritical zealots ... I wonder if there's a Slow Food parable in that.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    I just wanted to say that I'm thoroughly enjoying your insightful, factual comments in this post. I applaud you for your knowledge concerning these issues, and appreciate your creating this thread.

                                    Thank you to all the other commenters as well; I'm receiving quite the education (though I realize this is probably just the tip of the tip of the iceberg) this evening!

                              2. re: rworange

                                I've been a cheap-eating grad student for the past couple of years and fast food is really expensive! I even shop at the local organic markets(bulk bins ftw!) and my food bills are much lower than if I ate fast food regularly.

                              3. re: pikawicca

                                Fighting the immemorial human imperative for cheap food is like King Canute holding his hand against the incoming waves.

                              4. It's preachy.

                                Don't moralize food.

                                1. Coming from the trenches, I can say there was no issue, none, with local chapter leaders and members who coordinated a lot of cool events to promote healthy, sustainable food at that price point. I can easily feed my family great food from the farmer's market at that price point. I thought it was a great, democratic event and generated a lot of positive media attention.

                                  There was, no, none, discussion of this "issue" among "regular members" at the time.

                                  I admit I am not above shoving the slow moving out of the way to get the last $10 pint mulberries because, hell, those are really tasty. And yes, I'd like to see farmers paid better and more people have access to good quality food at a price they can afford.

                                  But as much as like Alice and Tookie and the really, fundamentally support their various important volunteer work (Edible Schoolyard, Support for Lousiana farmers) they don't speak for Slow Food USA.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: JudiAU

                                    Also in the trenches...there was at our end.

                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                      DiningDiva and JudiAU, interesting to hear the reaction from the trenches. I'd not had a sense that the divide was as much of a wedge as the CHOW article portrays until I'd read it here.

                                      I'm a new member of Slow Food and not that active. While I've supported Slow Food's objectives, the chapters in the San Francisco Bay Area and the focus of their tasting events just were too precious for me. I've attended some as a guest of friends who were members but over the years, most of my friends dropped out, not liking the snobs in the local groups. I didn't feel a need to join.

                                      What changed for me was hearing Josh Viertel speak in March 2010 in San Francisco. First of all, I was stunned when it was announced that he would be appearing at a panel discussion at Glide Memorial in San Francisco. Wow, Slow Food stepping into the Tenderloin?!? He was up there on stage with Martin Bourque of Berkeley's Ecology Center and Nikki Henderson of West Oakland's Peoples Grocery, and others talking about food justice, sustainability issues, and closing the gap between the food system of the privileged and the food system left to the poor. I liked his position that we need to have more people at the table talking about the food system, not just preaching to the choir, and his desire to make Slow Food more inclusive, including working with companies like Dupont on matters of mutual interest. He would probably be pleased with the discussion we're having right here. With this shift, Slow Food became relevant for me and I felt like I could be part of it under this new direction.

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        I've been a SF member off and on for many years, most of the time in name only. I am currently a board member for a new chapter that is decidedly not snobby and that tries to meet the needs of an urban population. We have 3 over arching principals...1) Food justice, 2) Healthy families, and 3) sustainable communities. All of our functions have to meet at least one of those principals in order to become a full fledged event. We try and keep our functions as affordable as possible so that a wide cross section can attend, and in fact, do have functions that are free.

                                        It isn't so much that our chapter didn't support the $5 Challenge - we did and had a great function - so much as the way it came to us and the fact it was not particularly well defined. Every Sept. SF holds a "day of action" which is supposed to be used to mobilize and energize the membership. We'd already been told to expect it to be centered around the upcoming Farm Bill that will be wending it's way through Congress in 2012. So when we received notice of the $5 Challenge, it was pretty late in the game and were a bit confused as to what the purpose was, how it supported the Farm Bill (turns out it didn't) and what the intent was.

                                        Our board discussions were more about frustrations with the National organization than the message because we knew we could spin it whichever way we needed to make it work for our community. Cowboyardee hit the nail on the head up-thread when he said the issues in the Chow.com piece had been simmering for some time and, as far as I know, go far beyond the $5 Challenge.

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          Josh, himself, is a great addition to Slow Food. He has done a lot to make the movement less elite and perceived as less elite. All of the major projects SF has sponsored have been great since he's come on aboard. The organization as a whole isn't very well organized and board meetings do tend to focus on irritations with "national." Most of the chapters have a difficult time because they have very few volunteers and a lot of people who want and or expect to go to events.

                                      2. re: JudiAU

                                        Poppy Tooker just tweeted: "Sad tales of Slow Food USA Cheap food cheap message not good Josh, not good at all. The ARK was the heart of Slow Food. "


                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          You know, there is nothing in the Ark that says the food needs to be expensive.


                                          One of the foods being preserved by the ARK is heirloon miralton, um, chayote. This makes me laugh because of my struggle with a chayote that took over my yard and house. There is an Adopt a Mirilton program ... that seems like adopting Audry from Little Shop of Horrors.


                                          Maybe Katrina destroyed a lot of it, but it wasn't because it was a difficult to grow plant that "“backyard mirliton vines” became a common sight crawling over fences and into trees all over New Orleans, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and smaller rural communities.

                                          Anyway, $200 heritage turkeys aside, there are so many foods on the ARK list that are not expensive even if you were to buy the most expensive version you could find ... and some of it is the food of poverty ... of eating cheap food ... starting with that miralton.Yes, I understand from the site that it is a special variety but as the Slow Food site says fhey arrived in Louisiana "After their historic introduction from the Caribbean during the 1804 Slave Revolt in Haiti"

                                          Louisiana tasso? Where did that originate if not in the homes of the poor as flavoring for gumbo and jambalaya?

                                          And how about poi ... really?

                                          Even if buying these products from small artisan farmers or vendors, it is not going to break the bank.

                                          And wouldn't these foods benefit from a larger public awareness? Would Sebastopol Gravestein apple orchards be plowed under for condos if people were aware of their significance and sought them out ... maybe as dessert in that $5 meal.

                                          Coincidentally, Deer Tongue lettuce, another ARK veggie, was on my Eating on $3 a day menu.

                                          Hmmm ... looking at that list, If Louisiana French bread is on the list, I wonder if SF Sourdough bread could be put on the endangered list. Tadich could get nominated.

                                          You go, Josh. There's nothing sad about it at all. You might just be saving the heart from cardiac arrest. .

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                            Wow. I used to have a lot of respect for her. I hate nasty tweeting.

                                        2. IMHO, the reason why people in the US (of all economic backgrounds) don't eat local foods is simple...it's because people don't know how to cook anymore. I think Slow Food USA needs to focus on that.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: momskitchen

                                            Very good point. It doesn't do any good to tell people how many meals they can get out of a chicken if they don't understand how to say, make a decent chicken stock. I know many folks dislike Tony Bourdain but I do like his idea about teaching at least basic culinary arts in school. I'm aware that would be costly but if an entire generation of young people get even a little better at cooking economically, I'm not sure the investment isn't worth it.

                                            1. re: momskitchen

                                              This is absolutely true. There's a lot of talk about "food deserts" in poor communities, how poor people don't have access to fresh produce, etc. But when I look at Oakland (for example), I see the food deserts, but I also see poor neighborhoods with thriving markets selling fresh foods. The difference is that the markets are in neighborhoods with immigrant communities (Mexican, Vietnamese), neighborhoods where people still know how to cook and often live with or near family members with whom they share food prep and meals. In other neighborhoods, where families have been fractured and people have been living on fast food for a couple of generations now, no one knows what to do with fresh food, so no one buys it, so the stores don't carry it, which just perpetuates the cycle.

                                              People's Grocery in West Oakland was mentioned above -- they address this by combining their grocery sales with cooking classes and health and nutrition programs.

                                            2. I get what you're saying. I live in a community with lots of small scale farms, local products are easy to come by, if not as abundant and varied as in California. If I put my mind to it, I have no problem taking $30 to the farmers' market and getting enough food to prepare a weeks worth of lunches and dinners for myself, often with a some fresh flowers as a bonus. To think that the godmother of local, sustainable food would take offense because I'm buying what I need within my budget... I wonder how she feels about people in rural communities that don't buy anything from artisan farmers because they grow, raise, hunt, and fish most of what they need for themselves - that is truly slow food, and they're doing it for far less than $5/meal.

                                              1. I don't agree that people aren't buying local foods because of their supposed inability to cook. It's merely a matter of convenience. Most people shop most often at places which have everything they need. Those who shop at farmers' markets or other markets featuring local produce are also shopping elsewhere. My experience is that the farmers' markets are packed with people buying local produce, but this an inherently small part of the produce trade. If everyone went to the farmers' markets for all produce, it would be impossible to serve them. In fact, it would be impossible for them all to get there by any mode of transportation. The farmers' markets do not have the capacity to feed the nation.

                                                What is "local" produce, anyway? In California, most supermarkets carry bags of mixed greens grown and packaged by large-scale producers in California. That's "local" produce as far as I am concerned. Not only home cooks buy these, but restaurants as well (in wholesale quantities). Almost every small, modestly priced restaurant in the SF Bay area uses these premixed greens now.

                                                Anyone who has been using supermarkets for half a century, as I have, knows that the quality and variety of produce available from them has increased greatly over that time, as well as the quality and variety of fresh ingredients used in affordable restaurants. This is the real legacy of the "slow food" movement, not the farmers' markets and restaurants like Chez Panisse.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: GH1618

                                                  >>> If everyone went to the farmers' markets for all produce, it would be impossible to serve them.

                                                  I agree with most of what you say but not that. In the decades since I started shopping at farmers markets they have proliferated like free-range bunnies.

                                                  No can can shop exclusively at the farmers markets, but even in the year since I was out of the country, there are an amazing number of new markets. Almost every neighborhood has one.

                                                  And in a way it is almost like when I lived in Guatemala, with each neighborhood having stands with local veggies and stuff. That doesn't do away with supermarkets there, but it is possible to serve everyone for a significant part of their food needs.

                                                  Also, IMO, it was Chez Panisse that started ... or put a bright light on ... local, organic, etc. From there the farmers markets grew and the populatirty of that put pressure on the supermarkets to emulate some of that giving consumers a larger variety of produce.

                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                    Your last paragraph is exactly the point I made.

                                                2. I don't think the defectors realize that spending $5/person per meal for many people would be a *dramatic* increase in what is spent on a daily/weekly food budget for many people (article said their original goal was to get people to spend more on food). One can make an entire meal for 4 people for $5 or less out of mass produced food, even boxed processed food that can be relatively "expensive" compared to fresh ingredients.

                                                  11 Replies
                                                  1. re: Jen76

                                                    Why wouldn't they realize that? And more importantly what difference would it make?

                                                    See my posts above. The problem is that Slow Food USA is emphasizing the affordability of slow foods in the first place, not that $5 is some magic number.

                                                    A lot of people in this thread don't seem to be taking the defectors' point seriously. Which is a shame because it is absolutely central to the entire slow food movement in the first place.

                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                      Hard to take seriously that which one doesn't fully understand. If $5 per meal per person is spending more, than shouldn't that be a good start to the stated goal? Instead, it's a "problem" and I'm still confused as to why. And, I did read your posts prior posts.

                                                      "The problem is that Slow Food USA is emphasizing the affordability of slow foods in the first place..."

                                                      So, affordability is bad?

                                                      1. re: Jen76

                                                        "So, affordability is bad?"
                                                        Close. Downward pressure on prices for 'slow foods' is, in fact, bad.

                                                        For one, what accounts for the low prices of factory farmed foods? It's the very practices that the slow food movement abhors. The all-important drive to lower food price is what caused the problems with American industrial food production in the first place. Subjecting 'slow food' to those same pressures defeats the purpose of the movement.

                                                        For another, pushing for lower prices financially hurts the producers of slow foods. It has been these food producers who were really in the trenches driving the movement all along. Demanding they take a pay cut is going to ruffle some feathers and far more - they're not paid well in the first place. The movement depends on em.

                                                        Now, affordability would be a good thing if it didn't force less responsible growing practices and/or financially hurt producers, potentially driving them out of business. The only way to do that is with subsidy. In absense of a massive restructuring (basically flipping) of our agricultural subsidy policy, people are going to have to accept that raising food without cutting corners just costs more. It's not elitism. It's economic reality.

                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                          >>> "So, affordability is bad?"

                                                          >>> Demanding they take a pay cut is going to ruffle some feathers and far more - they're not paid well in the first place.

                                                          Stop right there. NO one in the $5 food challenge demanded a price cut. No one.

                                                          It was a challenge to put together a slow food meal buying what is currently available at market prices.

                                                          And for all the weeping about prices, not ONE ... not one ... SF Bay Area farmer that I have been familiar with for decades has gone out of business. .... and they have been responsibily selling sustainable food at prices that have kept them in business far before Slow Food was a twinkle in anyone's eye.

                                                          It is not demanding affordable food, that is bothering these people, it is the perception that this food is affordable that is bothering these people. And I am sorry. That is just plain stupid. They are sabotaging the thing they SAY they want to save.

                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                            I've said here and on the other thread: I have no doubt that the $5 challenge wasn't the real issue. The real issue is an ideological break between people who think slow food should compete on pricing and people who think that is a destructive idea. The $5 challenge was only a tipping point, and IMO sort of an arbitrary one at that.

                                                            "It is not demanding affordable food, that is bothering these people, it is the perception that this food is affordable that is bothering these people."
                                                            No. A thousand times (and we're getting there), no.
                                                            You're putting words in the mouths of the people (me, for one) who object to the direction of the slow food movement rather than addressing their (my) actual argument. It really is about objecting to pressure to make slow food more affordable.

                                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                                              >>> It really is about objecting to pressure to make slow food more affordable.

                                                              Document that. Give me a link

                                                              I see zero pressure. I just see a request to check slow food out. People will find it either too rich for their budget or not. I see no statement saying "let's make slow food affordable".

                                                          2. re: cowboyardee

                                                            These are the points I take from your words (correct?):
                                                            - Affordability isn't bad, but emphasizing that Slow Food can be affordable is bad.
                                                            - Advertising the possibility of affordability will lead to future demands for lower prices which will lead to cutting corners in production methods.

                                                            So, what would your message be if you were in charge?

                                                            1. re: Jen76

                                                              That's a fair summary of my points.

                                                              Figuring out exactly how American Slow Food should proceed is probably more than I can sort out all by myself, but here are some ideas for where I'd like to see Slow Food focus:

                                                              - Continued and increased focus on building political influence. IMO, it is just unrealistic to think that the movement will truly flourish without influence on legislators, especially considering that mainstream food producers are already playing that game quite well.

                                                              - Along those lines, build ties with politicized (and non-politicized) organizations whose mission is complementary. I guess I'm thinking especially of public health and medical organizations. Public endorsement from a well trusted, high profile national health or nutrition organization would lend credence to the movement. As someone in the medical field, I can tell you that there is a lot of untapped and underutilized sympathy for the cause.

                                                              - Keep prices down by keeping costs down. That means continued building of localized infrastructure. That also means building education networks on efficiently producing 'slow foods.' Mainstream food production is very top-down, with large food corporations (and seed corporations, etc) dictating the smaller-scale production methods to farms. Slow food will not have this advantage, so slow food producers will have to educate each other. The internet is a great means to do this.

                                                              There is no need at all to publicly emphasize pricing. As rworange points out - people comparison shop anyway. What you need is more availability, more visibility, and a way to keep pricing affordable that doesn't hurt producers or production methods.

                                                              - Teaching people to cook is a great thing, AS LONG as it's done in a way that's fun and not condescending.

                                                              - At some point, you have to address the convenience aspect. It's great when people cook for themselves, but the reality is that a lot of the food eaten in this country is going to be cooked outside of the home for the foreseeable future. In urban areas, the sudden rise in popularity of food trucks can be a truly great boon to the slow food movement.

                                                              No, I'm not kidding. Think about it. Start up and operational costs are low - much lower than a restaurant; as such, pricing can be lower. They offer truly fast, convenient, ready-to-eat food. Their popularity is perfect for offering up an alternative to mainstream convenience food. So reach out to the operators of food trucks. Recruit them to the movement. Promote them. Protect them in cities that pass overly restrictive laws against food trucking.

                                                              - As for message, they should sell the food and the movement on the basis of what makes it worthwhile in the first place: offering a better product. From the perspective of health and nutrition, environmentalism, humane treatment of animals, ethical/equitable treatment of workers, and taste. Pick your emphasis depending on which market you're advertising to.

                                                              - Patience. This is a war of attrition.

                                                              That's what I've got off the top of my head. It is by no means definitive, just my own brainstorming.

                                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                You know those "Dream Dinners" and other such outlets that were a big fad last year? The exact same principal, run regionally and with seasonablity in cooperation with local food suppliers/growers could be used to expand slow food... and for my money, we don't *have* any respectable, trustworthy food authorities or agencies.

                                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                  Good points and your thoughts are not so far from mine. The only difference we have is the impact of opening peoples eyes to affordability.

                                                                  SF already has food trucks .like you describe. In fact there are regular events called Real Food.

                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                    We're facing some really terrible new regulations on food trucks in our area. I'd love to hear a little more of your position re: their value to a better food system to assist me in trying to formulate and support my position in their support.

                                                        2. I just wanted to address your assumption -- "I live in the SF Bay Area ... home of Alice Waters ... which probably has some of the most expensive artisan food in the country. "

                                                          The Bay Area actually has some of the lowest priced local/organic foods I have ever seen, for a variety of reasons but mostly boiling down to the huge population base and incredibly (incredibly, I say!) easy growing conditions.

                                                          I moved from the Bay Area to grow food in the Rocky Mountains. We charge $14/lb for salad greens, $6/lb for carrots. You can make a slow food meal for $5 in SF. You probably can't in the high desert.

                                                          Also I'm not sure exactly what you mean by this: "And BTW, former Slow Fooders... those artisan farmers who you want to get paid their fair share are relying in illegal immigrants to harvest their crops who are not sharing in the bounty. Where's your concern for them? "

                                                          Yes there are small scale farmers that use immigrant labor; there are also small scale farmers that don't. That is a major appeal of buying local (which to me means direct from producer, not just buying from the "California" section at Whole Foods), that you can ask the producer their practices and vote with your dollars based on your personal priorities (which may include environmental concerns, health concerns, fair labor practices and/or many other things which are not necessarily addressed by the label "organic").

                                                          11 Replies
                                                          1. re: yellowstone

                                                            Why are your costs so high?

                                                            Are you growing produce that isn't adaptable to they high dessert?

                                                            Is there a lower demand (for a number of reasons I can imagine)?

                                                            My comment on labor was that it seems to me the people that are shedding tears because they the thought of affordable sustainable food would impoverish the gentelman farmer, don't give the appearance of caring about any human level below the vendor.

                                                            There's a link above to this 2008 article about a Slow Food event in SF in 2008.

                                                            Near the end, is a report about Eric Schlosser, author of "Fast Food Nation". The article writes

                                                            " At forum after forum at Slow Food Nation, Schlosser drove home a key point: The millions of people who work at vegetable farms, meatpacking plants, and restaurants -- the largest group of employees in the United States -- are ruthlessly exploited and need to be included in any meaningful sustainable-food movement. And he stacked his own Food for Thought session not with celebrated authors, but rather with labor-movement leaders.

                                                            I heard Schlosser say off-stage that his single-minded focus on labor made him feel like a "turd in a punchbowl" at Slow Food Nation."

                                                            1. re: rworange

                                                              I have to agree with yellowstone that it can easily seem smug when people in the CA Bay area intone about the glories of eating local. I've lived in the Bay Area. I've also lived in North Dakota. There is nothing to harvest in North Dakota for something shockingly close to half a year, from sheer coldness. (Say, Dec.-April.) Of course, storables like winter squash are some help, as are freezers. But you need to appreciate the difficulties of being foodie outside a place like Northern CA, which is almost comically blessed.

                                                              My first experience of Alice Waters as a media figure was when I lived in North Dakota, and her casual encouragements to buy local at the farmers market and maintain an herb garden were a bit galling.

                                                              That said, I do appreciate her basic concerns and frequent farmers markets wherever I live.

                                                              1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                >>> you need to appreciate the difficulties of being foodie outside a place like Northern CA, which is almost comically blessed

                                                                Like, say, in Guatemala ... where there are six beers produced in the country and those are by the evil Gallo? Where no one needs to modify lettuce with "iceberg' or tomatoes with "Roma" because that is usually all there is.

                                                                Where the concept of 'organic' is only the twinkle in tourists eyes.

                                                                The details may not be the same in North Dakota as SF or Central America, but the model is the same ... which is why I asked about why yellowstone was charging so much. Maybe carrots are not the thing to grow in the dessert and lettuce requires too much water.

                                                                IMO, one size doesn't fit all.

                                                                So in Guatemala it was eating what was local ... obviously with a year-round growing season unlike NC. If I was a slow foodie, there were lots of causes to get involved in such as preserving the milpa fields. IIRC, there is a branch of Slow Food in Oaxaca, Mexico.

                                                                It is sort of like Chowhound. You try to eat as deliciously as possible within your own limitations be that health, budget or location.

                                                                So people need to evaluate where they are and how sustainable fits in their personal picture. Given Ms. Waters seems to be out of touch even with the Bay Area, she might not be the best advocate of how to eat in other areas of the country or world.

                                                                1. re: rworange

                                                                  There are dozens of Slow Food chapters all over Mexico. They are under the umbrella of Slow Food International and operate differently than SFUSA. Most are like small, tightly held private corporations, somewhat closed and tend to have a narrow focus. They very much fit the elitist SF model. I do know people in Mexico - Mexicans and ex-pat Americans - who will not join or support SF in Mexico because of it's elitist orientation. OTOH, the SF chapter in Merida runs a prettty funky, small Saturday market with a crazy array of products produced by locals. From the guy making coconut pies from coconuts from his backyard tree, to the guys growing lettuce starts in 3-gallon discarded plastic jugs on their roof, to the Korean-American woman vending delicious prepared Korean food or the woman from San Antonio (married to a Frenchman) who runs a bakery doing whole grain, organic, local, sustainable baked goods and whose regular clientel is mostly Mexican, this particular market fills a niche and provides a great deal of social interaction and cultural exchange, which are, without a doubt, part of the Slow Food International objectives.

                                                                  There have been some rather astounding Slow Food supported projects in Mexico that have been quite successful. They are outlined in the Terra Madre book that was publised a few years ago, and which I do not have handy, or I could list a few examples of the projects.

                                                                2. re: Bada Bing

                                                                  Exactly. The "eat local food" mantra is promoted by privileged Californians. But even in California a great deal of food is imported from Mexico and South America, as well as from other states. We can buy fresh local produce much of the year, but that is nowhere near enough to sustain the population. The food economy is international, even in California.

                                                                  1. re: GH1618

                                                                    Funny, isn't it how these things evolve? Slow Food has communist roots. Supporting the local economy by focusing on local food is part of American small town socialism.

                                                                    And it is very true that California can't feed itself with local production. Last year the National Cancer Institute calculated that US domestic production plus the amount of fruits and vegetables we import are insufficient to allow every American to have five servings a day. Current sources could only supply half.

                                                                    "Five steps to local eating"

                                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                      I don't buy your "communist" connection. I don't believe the characterization is helpful to the discussion, to put it politely.

                                                                      1. re: GH1618

                                                                        That's a very well known part of the origin of the Slow Food movement. Check it out, google "Slow Food" and Communists.

                                                                        I mention it as a point of history, not a loaded word, offered in contrast to your assertion about who is beating the drum today in California. Not understanding where you're taking offense.

                                                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                          OK, I found the connection to Italian leftists:


                                                                          The "International" was founded and the "Manifesto" adopted at the Opéra Comique in Paris. How appropriate.

                                                                        2. re: GH1618

                                                                          As I understand it, Melanie was simply stating an historical fact, not making a point. The group that kicked off the Slow Food movement was an Italian organization called Arcigola. The name was a combination of the Italian word for 'gullet' and ARCI, an organization strongly affiliated with Italian communism. Arcigola was said to have distinct communist ties.

                                                                          Now that's merely an historical anecdote. American Slow food has nothing at all to do with Italian communism (as far as I know, Italian Slow Food has nothing to do with Italian communism anymore either). But history is what it is. Space exploration got started by communists too - doesn't automatically make it a bad thing.

                                                                  2. re: rworange

                                                                    Well, one reason the prices are high here is that none of the small farms in my area use exploited labor. I might guess that one reason Slow Fooders aren't as sympathetic to labor issues is that they believe that in the very act of buying "true" slow food they are not supporting exploitative labor practices (ie, real slow food does not exploit their employees) so they are exempt from caring about it. They could be wrong, but I could see the logic going that way.

                                                                    Organic prices at the big supermarkets in our area are comparable to the prices we set, it turns out. I don't know anything about supermarket economics so I can't tell you why that is, but I know that our prices are competitive with the grocery stores.

                                                                    There is precious little in the way of crops that are well-suited to the high desert. We have an extremely short season, very little precipitation, a mess of water rights that lead to exorbitant land prices, and huge temperature swings day to night that stress the plants incredibly (this means that we have to baby the crops with labor-intensive and expensive temperature regulating techniques. On the plus side, the temperature stress produces depth of flavor in certain crops that you don't find in Central Coast produce). We sometimes joke that organic food in California is so cheap because the farmers have it so easy. "What do they DO all day?"

                                                                    You could certainly make the argument that we shouldn't be growing food here (or even living here at all), but the fact is that people do live in the mountains whether we "should" or not. Food is going to be expensive at 8000 feet whether you grow it in hard conditions or ship it in from California.

                                                                    There is indeed a lower demand in this area due to 1) very low population density consisting of a 2) low income and 3) low education population. We simply don't have the kinds of markets where you can bring 200 lbs of something and make up for the small margin in volume. I don't know if we've ever had a market with more than 100 sales. Average is more like 35. And we still have to make enough profit to pay off the land.

                                                                3. I haven't had a chance to read all of the posts so I apologize. I think what the folks who are upset over the price challange fail to realize is; that for the slow food movement to truly survive and thrive regular people need to be able to afford to participate in it. If it stays rooted in "gastro elite" it will always be a fringe movement. Small farmers/producers need to be able to make a living but if the mass market doesn't have access to the bounty it is just elitist prosletizing.

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: drewpbalzac

                                                                    If so that's a damn shame, because higher food prices are a non-negotiable costs of moving away from the factory farming model. You've got to pay the piper as a society, one way or another. You can do that by putting up with the health, financial, ethical and environmental consequences of factory farming and husbandry, or you can do that by paying higher prices at the register.

                                                                    If you want to make healthy, well-raised food as affordable for impoverished people as McDonald's, you're talking legislation and subsidy. There is no way around this fact.

                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                      I disagree. Education would enter into that.

                                                                      The point is that people already have the money to throw at fast food. People think nothing of spending $20 or more per family at fast food restuarants, so it isn't exactly paying the piper when people are already spending relatively $$$ for junk.

                                                                      And that is just the point of the $5 challenge.

                                                                      I would even argue that the most impoverished would be helped with a little food education

                                                                      While this is not exactly the food we are talking about, $2 can get you a loaf of white bread and at least a half pound of bologna. That would last longer and be more filling that two $1 value menu items (and at lest in California eliminate the sales tax).

                                                                      It is this contempt for the underclass that they are too stupid, lazy, ignorrant to educate that is elitist in the most distressing way.

                                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                                        You disagree with what exactly? Never did I speculate on whether poor people could actually afford to eat healthier (though I do that below, if you'd like to address my points there). I only said that the same foods will always cost less when they are produced via the factory model than when they are produced more responsibly. The white bread and bologna (please tell me there is a better example of cheap healthy food out there, or we are seriously in trouble) you mention will in fact be cheaper when they are produced from factory farmed wheat and pigs than if those same products were made by smaller producers.

                                                                        "It is this contempt for the underclass that they are too stupid, lazy, ignorrant to educate that is elitist in the most distressing way."
                                                                        I mean this in the most respectful way, but WHAT ON EARTH are you talking about with respect to my post? If you respond to me, I'd appreciate if you respond to my points specifically.

                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                          It is not impoverished people who are the customer base at McDonald's. To state that assumes something about a class of people that is just plain false.

                                                                          That doesn't mean poor people don't eat at McDonald's, but with few exceptions that would not be the major food source of the poor.

                                                                          I am not disputing that sustainable farming will cost more than factory farming. What I disagree with is that the money is not available for the average consumer to do so.

                                                                          Which is why education is important.

                                                                          The value menu keeps getting brought up. My only point is that if anyone is going to eat junk, they can eat more filling junk than that and even that might take some education.

                                                                          Part of the reason food is so cheap is that the government subsidizes factory farming. If those subsidies went to local, sustainable farms and the mega farmers were cut off, the prices of that crap food would rise and local farming would look a lot more attractive.

                                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                                            To clarify, I bring up McDonalds and the value menu because it's so iconic, not because I assume that poor people get all of their food there.

                                                                            The larger reality is that cheap, convenient premade food is less healthy and worse for the environment on average than more expensive and less processed foods. That can be McD's or a host of other cheap premade foodstuffs.

                                                                            You make a fine point about large-scale industrial foods being subsidized. But my contention is that if you removed all subsidy, factory farming would still be cheaper (in terms of sticker price). It's just a more efficient model of production when you don't consider the hidden costs to society.

                                                                  2. Adding fuel to the fire, I found this blogger's January challenge to stick to the USDA budget and only shop at WF:

                                                                    17 Replies
                                                                    1. re: WCchopper

                                                                      The problem is that much of what WF sells would not necessarily qualify as slow food, depending on how you define it. And that's precisely how WF became more affordable....

                                                                      1. re: WCchopper

                                                                        Seriously ... $491.10 for the a family of three for 30 days groceries at Whole Foods is hardly a challenge. I would even make that an excessive budget.

                                                                        The blogger is correct though, Whole Foods is not as expensive as people make out.

                                                                        I did a shopping comparison of organic food across supermarkets and even included Walmart ... Whole Foods came in cheaper than Walmart in terms of organics with an obviously larger variety.

                                                                        The problem with people's perception of Whole Foods and, in fact, any organic food is they get so blinded by the bling items that they can't see the reasonable prices.

                                                                        If you buy the WF store brands and pass by the pricy stuff, Whole Foods can be affordable.

                                                                        That is what gets me so annoyed about the controversy about the $5 food challenge. It reinforces in peoples minds that sustainable food is unaffordable.

                                                                        I'm pretty savy about food shopping. I did a report a few years ago about living for a month on $3 a day and that included organic food for a week.

                                                                        However, when I started looking at supermarket prices for organics one thing stunned even me.

                                                                        Raley's, a California supermarket, charges the exact same prices for most of their organic produce as the conventional produce. And yet, for years, I just walked by the organic section of this store because my mindset was "It is organic and out of my budget".

                                                                        Even in the Chow article that inspired this thread, the writer seems to think that a $5 meal would amount to living on nuts and berries ... and this is from someone who makes their living writing about food so you would expect more savy than that.

                                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                                          The problem with people's perception of Whole Foods and, in fact, any organic food is they get so blinded by the bling items that they can't see the reasonable prices.
                                                                          This is true of almost all discussion of the relative prices of farmers markets, organic markets, and conventional markets. It's like all those ridiculous articles in the NY Times about people who buy a $25 chicken and then complain organic food is not affordable, or the woman who used $12/baskets strawberries from the Greenmarket to make jam and concluded from that home canning was not economically feasible. Or even people who seem to think that it's steaks or chops or no meat at all.

                                                                          I'm going to agree with rworange and disagree with cowboyardee: my take on this is that every time people try to promote organic foods, the argument against is that it's too expensive for regular people and thus is inherently elitist. A $5 meal to me strikes a nice balance between paying a fair price and still not being so expensive as to be considered elitist.

                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                            "my take on this is that every time people try to promote organic foods, the argument against is that it's too expensive for regular people and thus is inherently elitist."
                                                                            It IS inherently more expensive than factory farmed foods. There is no way around this. The production model dictates higher price.

                                                                            What's more, as long as 'slow food' (which is not the the same thing as organic food by the way) costs noticeably more than the factory farmed alternatives, there will ALWAYS be critics willing to call the movement 'elitist.' A middle ground price will not protect the movement from the E-bomb. As a movement, slow food has got to learn to be less sensitive to that tired criticism. Even more importantly, as long as slow food costs noticeably more than the factory farmed alternatives, a huge number of people (many of whom are poor, but not all of em) will consistently choose the cheaper foods, regardless of the longer term costs of doing so.

                                                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                              First of all as I said and I would guess everyone in this thread understands, factory food is cheaper.

                                                                              >>> as long as 'slow food' ...costs noticeably more than the factory farmed alternatives, there will ALWAYS be critics willing to call the movement 'elitist.' A middle ground price will not protect the movement from the E-bomb.

                                                                              Sticks and stones

                                                                              I would guess those elitist Slow Fooders could care less about the label other than preserving it.

                                                                              If attaching the word "affordable' NOT "cheap" to Slow Food ... WITHOUT changing the current market prices is evil to these people their thinking is so twisted I can't get my head around it.

                                                                              This is so frustrating to me because I have spent decades personally trying to educate friends and family, that this food is not out of their price range. I've done post after post over the years on Chowhound saying that markets like Ferry Plaza are affordable and not elitist and ... amazing.

                                                                              I've had discussions about sustaible food with managers of markets like the Berkeley Bowl over the years. When organics were just getting started, BB sold expensive, rotten crap and I complained saying that organic doesn't mean bad quality.

                                                                              And here is a group of people basically wanting to get out the message that we can not and should not be able to afford this food ... that average people like me should not buy it.

                                                                              It reminds of of an old Joan Baez song, Big Yellow Taxi

                                                                              "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

                                                                              They took all the trees, and put em in a tree museum

                                                                              And they charged the people a dollar and a half to see them"

                                                                              These people are relegating this food to museum status. And maybe their efforts would be better spent not trying to promote the message we can't afford this food but looking at the causes for some of it disappearing NOT because of the prices I am paying for them.

                                                                              Often the next generation doesn't want to put in the huge amount of labor needed to run a farm and it is easier to take the big money dangled before them and run.

                                                                              The Gravenstein apple and blenheim apricot, two ARK foods,, are jeopardized by developers buying up the land they grow on.

                                                                              A more effective organization is the Marine Land Trust (MALT) which buys up endangered land to ensure farms and open space can continue to all our benefit.

                                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                                If attaching the word "affordable' NOT "cheap" to Slow Food ... WITHOUT changing the current market prices is evil to these people their thinking is so twisted I can't get my head around it.
                                                                                Couldn't agree more!

                                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                  Whole Spice in Napa is one of those places Slow Food should love. It is owned by someone who grinds spices to order if ordering through the mail.

                                                                                  Spices are about $2 an ounce ... and often organic. I can get the Hwaiian salt on the ARK list for that price. I have been blissing out on the alderwood smoked salt, also $2 an ounce. I use it a lot, bought it weeks ago and I still have some left.

                                                                                  If I bought these from Safeway from companies like McCormick or Schilling, I'd be paying way over $5 a bottle, have to buy more than I wanted and the (usually stale) spices would hang out on my shelf forever. It sure as heck would not be organic.

                                                                                  Even Chowhounds cringe a the thought of buying food at Oxbow Market where Whole Spice sells retail because they perceive it as overpriced. And yes, there are things at Oxbow that are $$$.

                                                                                  But there are also lots of good things that are better, less expensive than or competative with any mass produced item on the market. I am buying this at the price the vendor is asking. Even though a few places have gone out of business at Oxbow sinceit opened, this isn't one of them.

                                                                                  People recognize quality and will pay for it. And this business, like other that sell organic and sustainable products, can be less expensive than what might be convenient and easy to grab from the supermarket shelf.

                                                                                  Whole Spice like many of these businesses is not cheap. It is affordable. Those are not necesarily synonyms.

                                                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                                                    Great example. This year for my Christmas baking I compared spice prices at Raley's in Napa and Whole Spice. Taking into consideration that I had a half-full jar of supermarket ground ginger in my cabinet dating back to Christmas 2008, and cinnamon from 2009, I realized buying smaller quantities of spices at Whole Spice made much more sense than buying a whole McCormick jar and tossing it two years later.

                                                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                                                    "If attaching the word "affordable' NOT "cheap" to Slow Food ... WITHOUT changing the current market prices is evil to these people their thinking is so twisted I can't get my head around it."
                                                                                    To me, this is the crux of your post//argument - Ruth rightly latched onto it.

                                                                                    I also think it's the central point that you're not getting.

                                                                                    My argument: when you popularize the notion that slow food is affordable, you inevitably do put downward pressure on market prices. It doesn't happen immediately, but it happens.

                                                                                    Consumers as a whole, rich or poor, aren't stupid. When you emphasize how affordable slow food is and they still see that pastured chickens and eggs and meat and organic produce costs significantly more than the alternative, you're just insulting them. When Slow Food says, 'no, no, no - we mean you should buy whole chicken and make it into several meals and bolster your meals with healthy, affordable grains and greens - see, it really is affordable," it comes off as condescending and sort of dishonest, not revelatory.

                                                                                    When the movement gives the public that kind of line, it puts pressure on farmers over time to cut their pricing, just to match up with the public's expectations. Slow food producers are and have always been interested in access to mainstream markets. But competitive pricing is a destructive way to gain access to said markets, and the Slow Foods leadership is putting them in a position where that's their only way in.

                                                                                    The way in which you advertise something has major implications on how you now have to sell it. Risking coming off as obnoxious, I'll say that again, because it's very important:

                                                                                    THE WAY IN WHICH YOU ADVERTISE SOMETHING DICTATES HOW YOU NOW HAVE TO SELL IT.

                                                                                    People who object to the Slow Food movement emphasizing affordability understand that fact, intuitively or otherwise.

                                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                      Well, at least we agree consumers aren't stupid.

                                                                                      However, I think they are smarter than the Slow Food elitists.

                                                                                      A five dollar per person meal is significantly more than most people pay to begin with. That would be $20 for a family of four. If that family ate one $20 per day that would run up their groceries to $600 per month ... for just that one meal. So this is not exactly bargain mentality.

                                                                                      I think it is insulting that Slow Food thinks people are too dumb to think for themselves ... oohhh if we tell these morons that this food is within their budget and they see it is higher than what is in Safeway (which it is NOT) they will feel decieved.

                                                                                      Have you actually done price comparisons? I have.

                                                                                      Apples at Safeway go for $2.99 lb for conventionally grown, tasteless apples. I can buy heirloom apples at my farmers market for $2.50 lb.

                                                                                      Here's one comparison I did a few years ago, but I did an unposted comparison recently when someone was looking to find someplace cheaper, but organic-oriented, than Whole Foods. Surprise to me was WF isn't as expensive as perceived.

                                                                                      Anyway here's the Ferry Plaza vs Albertson's supermarket comparison


                                                                                      And BTW, the grapes in the above from FP were Waters precious Bronx grapes she suggest the poor would be better investing in than a pair of Nikes. The Albertson's grapes at 1 cent less per pound were tasteless generic red grapes.

                                                                                      If anything, the perception about slow food being expensive puts pressure on these small growers to match supermarket prices.

                                                                                      Yeah, it is about advertising. And here is what they have been advertising for years. If you have to ask the price, you can't afford it. That has put the brakes on the organic / slow food movement which would have moved along much faster without that

                                                                                      The choice ... choice ... was do you want to spend $5 at McDonald's or do you want to spend $5 on Slow Food. So if the objectors have their way, the $5 goes to McDonald's. Good job. I thought this whole organization started to protest the opening of a McDonald's in Rome. I guess they are now supporting that chain.

                                                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                                                        I'm trying to have an intelligent discussion here, but you're making it very difficult.

                                                                                        You write a long rant in reply to my posts that only tangentially mentions any of the points I made in the post.

                                                                                        Throwing around the term 'elitist' in regards to the part of the movement you disagree with is a barrier to intelligent discussion and destructive to the movement as a whole.

                                                                                        And yes, of course I've done price comparisons. Some of the produce at my farmers market is as cheap or cheaper than that at the chain grocery (the notorious rip-off operation, Giant Eagle). Some of it is not. Pasteured organic meat is invariably more expensive where I am. Eggs are invariably more expensive. Slow food as a whole is more expensive when comparing items on a 1 to 1 basis. The simple fact that you personally can find organic apples at good prices (in Slow Food Mecca California, no less) doesn't exactly change that. It's not even a drop in the bucket.

                                                                                        Please give my previous post some consideration. It does not seem that you have done so yet.

                                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                          I have read and understand what you are saying, but it seems this is some theory with zero basis. I asked you ... briefly ... in another post to show one example where a price was pushed down because of the percetion it was affordable. I have yet to see it and it is nothing I remember from my long ago college economics classes.

                                                                                          You are from PA .. isn't that Amish mecca where sustainable was a way of life long before anyone else thought of it?

                                                                                          That is not to say I don;t recognize that the mentality on the East Coast is different from the SF Bay Area regarding sustainable, so I kind of get some of the pessisim in your replies.I grew up in Connecticut and have friends there so I am aware of the different mindset.

                                                                                          And perhaps you fail to understand some of the food snobbery that goes on in this area since that might not be happening where you live. Food is a game here, almost entertainment.

                                                                                        2. re: rworange

                                                                                          "The choice ... choice ... was do you want to spend $5 at McDonald's or do you want to spend $5 on Slow Food. So if the objectors have their way, the $5 goes to McDonald's. Good job."

                                                                                          Are you seriously suggesting that McD is the only alternative to "slow" food? Who are all those folks I see buying whole rotisserie chickens and big packages of veggies at Costco? It may not all be organic or local, but that's available, too. And in the supermarket near their homes.

                                                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                                                            I'm just referring to the Slow Food challenge that was using the fast food value meal as its base.

                                                                                            1. re: rworange

                                                                                              But your statement is that if they don't go one way, the only other way is fast food and anyone who objects to the whole ridiculous paradigm is a trouble making elitist driving those bad choices.

                                                                                              I don't understand why you won't discuss based upon a) what others have actually said and b) the actual practical realities beyond the false premise presented here.

                                                                                2. re: rworange

                                                                                  It think that broke down to about $1.80 pp per meal, so somewhat less than your $3 challenge which I found very interesting. Although, in fairness, the blogger is doing this in New England during the winter.

                                                                              2. I applaud the idea of making good food affordable for THE POOR, but trying to shoehorn sustainable, slow food into the average America's existing food budget is a gross waste of time, IMO.  

                                                                                The trend in America has been that, with each passing decade, we have spent less and less of our budget on food.  In fact, we spend less than 5% of our income on food, which is less than other countries in the world, less than other wealthy nations.  When you compare that with the growth of our obesity epidemic and other nutritional related epidemics, it's obvious that no matter what your common sense might tell you, the cause of America's food related problems is not economic in nature.  

                                                                                I really enjoy the Freakonomics guys, Leavitt and Dubner.  What they do is look at what people think are social problems and test the hypotheses by looking at the data.  If you look at the economic data, it's obvious that the high price of food isn't the cause of America's eating disorder epidemics, and the reasons why parts of our food supply are of such unsustainable poor quality, are not economic.  Price is not driving unsustainable food practices here in America.

                                                                                Compilation of 2010 food spending as a percent of income:


                                                                                From the USDA's Economic Research Service,


                                                                                On page 2 of the USDA report, it discusses food spending behavior factors.  You can see that wealthier countries spend less of their income on food, which is to be expected, but also that the cost per calorie is higher.  So we're paying more for less and as well as less overall, which is consistent with junk food culture.  

                                                                                In my opinion, the problem is not affordability, but lack of desire to eat better, and a pop culture that hawks the desirability of unhealthy, unsustainable food.  People will eat better when they want to eat better, and personally identify with quality of food they put into their mouths.  This is why the culinary professionals and culture mavens are important to a good food movement, imo.  In a pop culture, popularity and appeal is what gets people to spend more.  If junk food culture can persuade people to pay more per calorie, so can good food culture.

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: AsperGirl

                                                                                  It also has to do with accesibility.

                                                                                  My stepchildren just moved here from Guatemala where I lived for a year.

                                                                                  During that time 95% of their meals were from scratch. Fresh fruit juice was at almost every meal and soda was extremely occasional as were chips.

                                                                                  Of course, there were trucks driving down the streets and stopping at houses offering fresh pineapples and other produce and vendors on bicycles selling fish and fresh baked goods.

                                                                                  I don't think I've seen them drink juice since they've moved here, unless you want to include sugary stuff like Tampico.

                                                                                  Then there was that megabox of bagged chips they bought from Costco.

                                                                                  This stuff is cheap and in their face as they walk down the supermarket aisles.

                                                                                  The basket of oranges on the counter and bananas seem more popular with the fruit flies as they sit there untouched.

                                                                                  Welcome to America.

                                                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                                                    Wow that's a really great point.

                                                                                    It would be amazing if really fresh, just picked produce came to the neighborhood! If you have to drive a half hour longer each eay to get the food, that's a big deal for working parents.

                                                                                  2. re: AsperGirl

                                                                                    Those are interesting figures, but flawed for the data they leave out of the equation.

                                                                                    Consider the possibility/likelihood of the following:

                                                                                    1 - Price/per calorie is higher in wealthy countries because of the increased cost of labor in said countries. If wealthy countries were not using a factory farming model, price per calorie would be even higher in wealthy countries.

                                                                                    2 - Impoverished people in wealthy countries spend less money as a proportion of their income on food not because they are necessarily far better off than people in less wealthy companies but because the costs of living in all other areas of ones life are higher. In other words, poor people in wealthy countries spend less money on food because the economic realities of being poor in a wealthy country means you have to, not simply because they can. If you're poor, you have to cut spending somewhere, and food is one of the more negotiable aspects of your expenses.

                                                                                    3 - Time is money. If you consider only the sticker price of foods but don't consider the value added by having foods pre-made, you've only looked at part of the equation. Being poor doesn't necessarily mean you have a lot of free time on your hands. Often, just the opposite.

                                                                                    I do think you make some good points about the need for a cultural swing toward valuing and sexing up healthy, well raised food. But unless the US either uses large scale subsidy to drive the price of said foods down or else addresses the overwhelming problem of poverty as a whole, I fear that such a movement still wouldn't be enough.

                                                                                    Interesting post though.

                                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                      Some of that goes back to the cooking discussion. Some poor people, for example, have limited or maybe even no access to refrigerators or cooking facilities, which makes them more dependent on prepared foods and less able to take advantage of the economies of buying in quantity. Cooking more economically often involves more complicated procedures: cooking a steak or a chop is quick and easy; stretching half a pound of hamburger by making a casserole is more time consuming and requires more skill.

                                                                                      And it may not be PC to say so, but many chronically poor people (as opposed to people who are temporarily poor due to a change in circumstances like losing a job or illness, or because of spending priorities, like going to school instead of working a full time or at a higher paying job) are poor for a reason: they have fewer skills, including skills like planning and budgeting. People who are intelligent and educated enough to participate in this discussion take those skills for granted, but I've known quite a few very poor people, and their capability of planning a week's worth of meals and/or making good buying decisions in terms of what foods provide the best value (as opposed to being cheap) was virtually nonexistent.

                                                                                  3. It is awefully cavalier to suggest that poor people need to suck up higher food prices. If "ethical hunger" is going to be the mantra of the Slow Food movement - then I am out. I love how people so easily dismiss the notion that struggling to keep a "life" together is just a matter of rearranging priorities.

                                                                                    The question that I believe is at the root of this was - Is it wrong to suggest that slow food could also be affordable food? I posit that if the answer is "no" - shame . . . shame . . . . .shame.

                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: drewpbalzac

                                                                                      This has been one of Chow's most interesting threads. A few thoughts. There's no reason SF could not focus on husbandry, stewardship, and preserving food diversity as well as adding its well-polished supporters' energy to larger struggles, not all of them ending up in a vineyard feast. How these preservation efforts, which are often good in themselves but can sometimes have little larger effect, should connect to the larger forces that drive food industry and culture has always been problematic. Cost is not the only issue, though it's obviously an important one. People buy cheap fast food in part because they have no time, space, or real resources for cooking from fresh ingredients. Many of the folks for whom food justice is intended, have no real cooking facilities, no skill in making a meal, and little time to worry about it: the time and space needed to do so gets chipped away by long, slow commutes to one or more jobs or looking for work or waiting in government offices or clinics ---being poor takes up a whole lot of daily time and energy. Convenience and its easy calories can be as important a concern as cost. I'm happy to see the organic/conventional price gap slowly diminishing for produce, even if this does not address the sometimes absurd world of organic groceries and other food products. But issues beyond the traditional SF scope--like how working and poor people fashion their daily lives--will always bump into good intentions. What good is it to have accessible, quality food, local and sustainable as much as possible, even some cute heirlooms and fair prices if great chunks of the consumer world neither have the time, energy, occasion, or opportunity to learn what to do with it? Making fresh, sound, local (where possible) and sustainable food accessible to people who may not even have a market within reach would seem to me at least as important a mission as, say, reviving a goat cheese hardly anyone remembers eating.

                                                                                      1. re: bob96

                                                                                        " There's no reason SF could not focus on husbandry, stewardship, and preserving food diversity as well as adding its well-polished supporters' energy to larger struggles, not all of them ending up in a vineyard feast"

                                                                                        Which is exact what the SF chapter for which I am Secretary does. NONE of our functions over the last 3 years has ended in a vinyard feast :-) Some of our projects include (but are not limited to):

                                                                                        * Making limoncello with sorrento lemons. we purchased a local crop that was about to turn for lack of commercial buyers, thus supporting a local farmer and providing a fun educational event for our membership.

                                                                                        * Sponsor a craft beer making class using all local and organic ingredients.

                                                                                        * Purchasing heritage turkey poults, and providing organic feed, for a group of 4-H kids who raised them, exhibited them at the county fair where they were judged by an expert poultry judge (yeah, they exist, who knew), and then humanely dispatched in early November for...

                                                                                        * A heritage turkey dinner at the International House of a very large local University in conjunction with 2 SF On Campus groups. SF members prepared, served and cleaned up after the meal (turkeys were cooked by a local SF chef). Cost was about $5/pp, 200 people attended, many of them foreign students studying at the university. This event is bi-annual and designed to let them learn about the American Thanksgiving traditions

                                                                                        * We routinely provide volunteers for Be Healthy nights in high risk elementary schools where they man stations and interact with parents and their children teaching them about sugar, fat, salt and exercise in practical ways that can reach the target audience. There is also usually a chef demonstrating healthy cooking, and many of our local farmers donate excess crops for give away bags that do contain fresh vegetabels.

                                                                                        * We sponsor and lead tours at our local farmers markets that are free for anyone wanting to learn more about what's available at the market, meet the farmers, see what they're recommending. All tours either begin or end with a cooking demo by a SF oriented chef who can show creative and interesting recipes for what is available in the market that day. (Some market tours also include price comparisons with local chain markets.)

                                                                                        * We've sponsored events and speakers for Sustainable Seafood Week

                                                                                        * We've sponsored book events for authors who will be in town and would like to promote a book related to an aspect of the food business.

                                                                                        * For the last 18 months we have been working with our local school district (7th largest in the nation) to help and support changing school meals. We've gotten chefs to donate time to come in an teach basic skills to the cooking staff (and as a former K-12 director I can't tell you how invaluable that is), we're helping to fund their efforts to either take kids to farms or bring a farmer to the classroom. And we've been working with our local Edible publication to do an edition for kids.

                                                                                        * We table at all kinds of events, Earth Day to an Italian film fesitval to a utility companys' wellness fair, simply to get the message out, answer questions and provide information.

                                                                                        SF USA considers us a "high functioning" chapter, and indeed we are. Nary a vineyard event in sight or mind ;-) Our founding members and current board members all recognize that food and slow food is an extremely large and diverse topic and there is room for a variety of point of views and approaches. Outreach and inclusion are extremely important to us so we concentrate a lot of our efforts in educating people about what SF is, or can be as well as providing some fun events, like our craft cocktail mixer coming up Tuesday evening at a newly opened spot in town. For the cost of a drink our members and friends can meet and mingle. The bar will pass apps made from local and sustainable ingredients and there will be several local farmers and artisan producers there to talk about their products and perhaps sell some. We'll have everyone from young 20-somethings up to established 40 and 50-somethings all talking to each other having a good time...and the pleasure of enjoying good food and beverage with convival companions truly *is* part of the SF mission.

                                                                                        SF is what each chapter makes of it. We've chosen to cover the broad spectrum. We're located in the county with more farms and farmers than any other in the U.S. We're a large county - 4,200 sq. miles - with nearly 70 miles of coast line, and 47 active farmers markets. We've chosen to be involved with local farmers, local fishing groups, and local organizations devoted to food justice and supporting at risk or immigrant populations because that is an accurate reflection of the food communities in our county. Other chapters have been other decisions

                                                                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                          Great events DiningDiva. Do you have a large volunteer group?

                                                                                          1. re: JudiAU

                                                                                            No, actually we don't.

                                                                                            We have about 300 members +/-, but we have a mailing list of about 4,000. Because all dues go to National and none to the chapter, we don't particulalry emphasize membership, but we do actively try and grow our "friends" list so that we can reach as many people interested in what's happening in the food communities as possible. We're in a major metropolitan area with about 3 million people.

                                                                                            When we table at events we have a mailing list sign up and a volunteer sign up. We have a volunteer coordinator who follows up with anyone who signs up as a volunteer. She prescreens them to see what they know and how they want to help. If they are a viable volunteer candidate, she forwards their information to the appropriate committee chair so that person can contact the volunteer. We go through phases with volunteers, sometimes there are enough, sometimes not. We've also found its' important to "vet" our volunteers for appropriateness, including appropriate behavior, having been burned a couple of times. We try not to do functions that are too volunteer-heavy.

                                                                                            We do have a large board (currently at 15 people) and board members are expected to show up at events and help in the absence of enough volunteers.

                                                                                            1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                              Great information. Thanks for sharing.

                                                                                    2. McDonald’s $5 meal

                                                                                      ¼ pounder
                                                                                      iced tea

                                                                                      Slow food meal all ARK food $3.88

                                                                                      $1.52 - Corriente 1/4 lb beef burger $6.08 lb ,,, on ...
                                                                                      $1.00 - Leidenheimer Baking Co: Poor Boy Bread 5 servings per loaf … $4.99 per loaf
                                                                                      $1.00 - Nancy Hall Sweet Potato fries 1/4 lb ***
                                                                                      $0.36 - Iced greenthread tea ($5.69 for 16 bags)

                                                                                      Ok, I’m being slightly facetious about this.

                                                                                      To get that price on the beef, you have to buy half a cow.

                                                                                      I am guessing Walmart is selling a different version of this bread … I would hope … due to the ingredient list.

                                                                                      Adding an two organic pickle slices, a dab of artisan catsup would only marginally increase the price for a single burger.

                                                                                      What would bring the price up to the $5 level would be the oil to cook the fries. No oil on ARK, so it would need to be something of quality.

                                                                                      Of course, you’d have to kill yourself to get all these ingredients in one place, so it is really a dream menu.

                                                                                      Also some of this food is so rare and precious buying it is like it was trying to get a reservation at El Buli. The tea is sold out. The cows are seasonal and you can only buy a 1/4 or 1/2 cow.

                                                                                      However, my point remains ... from my own personal experience ... that a quality meal could be put together for the cost of a fast food meal.

                                                                                      Instead of Slow Food focusing on the perception that affordable is bad PR, maybe they should work on turning around the thinking that the food we eat daily is shockingly expensive … and we are not counting in the cost to the American taxpayer for subsidies, medical costs for people ruining their health with this stuff and the impact environmentally that factory farming causes.

                                                                                      Corriente beef


                                                                                      Leidenheimer Baking Co

                                                                                      Found at Walmart, Slow Food … WALMART… ya gonna drop them from your list?


                                                                                      Nancy Hall Sweet Potato fries

                                                                                      *** Could not find any of these or other ARK potatoes retail, so I’m basing the price on the most expensive price I’ve seen for heirloom potatoes at Ferry Plaza - $4 lb

                                                                                      Greenthread tea


                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                                                        Beef, bread and potato? Neither meal is wholesome, nor much nutritional bang for the buck.

                                                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                                                          The $5 challenge was only focusting on a slow food meal. Even Chow seems to think that means eating nothing but beans and legumes.

                                                                                          My only point was that even if one tried to recreate a fast food meal from slow food, it would not be so wildly priced ... not convenient ... but not wildly priced.

                                                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                                                            Who's Chow? I haven't read that post. :-)

                                                                                            And my point is that both meals are nutritionally crap. Let's see more nutrition per calorie. There's not a single veggie on the plate. I don't think that's an accident; starches are cheap, but they're also fattening and driving the obesity epidemic. Lordy, I hope that tea is at least unsweetened?

                                                                                            Show me the inexpensive slow food meal made up of 4 oz of quality meat, a salad and some fresh veggies in season. It should be do-able, though not convenient. But convenience is critical to two income families with kids in school, activities and sports, etc.

                                                                                      2. A few data points here. I live in Honolulu, where food is NOT CHEAP. I'm elderly, crippled, and get food stamps. I manage to feed myself on $175 a month, just what I get in food stamps. Since I never eat out (can't afford it), that's approximately 90 meals at $2 each.

                                                                                        I'm a member of a food co-op, which carries organic produce, rice, beans, etc. I can't afford those. I buy the regular items (also carried by the co-op), but at prices lower than supermarket. I only buy a few of the cheapest fruits and vegetables. I do spend on non-fat milk (not organic), decent but not gourmet cheese, yogurt and butter. The bulk of my diet is oatmeal, rice, beans, tofu, and homemade bread. I don't buy soda any longer; I make my own ginger beer. I should perhaps add that I'm a fair cook and eat a lot of Middle Eastern/South Asian/East Asian dishes. I cook in bulk and freeze dinner-size portions, to save time.

                                                                                        My diet is certainly better than that of someone who eats at fast food restaurants and doesn't cook or bake. It demands a certain amount of cooking skill and some forethought. However, slow food it isn't.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Felila

                                                                                          Wow, that is beyond admirable.

                                                                                          When I did my report about eating on $3 a day a few years ago, it was in response to local news reports about eating on food stamps.

                                                                                          A reporter would be sent out for one week and basically live on bologna sandwiches and canned chile. It made me angry because there are better choices to be made, so I set out to prove that.

                                                                                          The only reason for the organic week was the perception that a local farmers market was wildly extravagant ... that organic was extravagant Prices are better in California. I didn't have a disability to deal with.

                                                                                          I don't think the Slow Food challenge was ever aimed at people on food stamps. In fact, it acknowledges that is probably beyond the means of some people.

                                                                                          Nor do I think in any forseeable future where slow food is going to be available to the masses and all classes. So I felt that was a misleading thing to state in this thread as were statements about the very poor living on the value menus. They are not filling and even if eathing the $3 meal daily that would run about $90 a month. A $2 daily breakfast adds $60. In the end that person would be very hungry.

                                                                                          So you have made the best choice with your circumstances. I think a lot of people do. It is those people who make poor choices that catch people's attention.

                                                                                          As to the convenience of fast and prepared food, I hate cooking, so my approach is to cook once and freeze ... my idea of conveniece food.

                                                                                          1. re: Felila

                                                                                            Why do you think your diet is incompatible with Slow Food? You cook good healthy food for youself on a very limited budget.

                                                                                          2. This afternoon Twilight Greenaway published a follow-up piece with more on this divide.

                                                                                            "A fork in the road for Slow Food"

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong


                                                                                              It made me for the first time underrstand what perhaps made Waters weep which just seemed stupid and out of touch to me.

                                                                                              They never should have given a stop work order to the Ark of Taste, no matter how temporary. It was out and out disrespectful of the contributions by people involved in that project.

                                                                                              It benefits no one to alienate the base while trying to broaden your audiance. Sounds like Chowhoubnd these days, eh? Leaving at least a stripped down Ark program until reorganization was achieved might have avoided some of that.

                                                                                              Still, this from Kurt Michael Friese, a Slow Food board member really sums up better than all my posts what I feel about the issue

                                                                                              "You can pay the farmer a fair price and still make really good food and have it be under $5 per portion. That doesn't rule out heritage breeds in any way. In fact it helps to support them. I think it's fine for the people who can afford to buy some expensive heritage turkey or some rare pig breed. It's important valuable stuff. But it's not the only way people can support Slow Food," he says.

                                                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                                                I've been reading some of the comments on food policy discussion groups etc. in the weeks since the Chow article was published. I'm glad Ms. Greenaway pulled together the range of opinions so neatly.

                                                                                                Also worth noting that Poppy Tooker commented on the Chow page and directed to this piece by Gary Nabhan, "Affordable Food for the Poor Versus Food Justice for Disaster-Stricken Farmers: Helping the Marginalized at Both Ends of the Food Chain",

                                                                                                And the end of the year appeal for donations for Slow Food USA was authored by Alice Waters.

                                                                                            2. This continues to be played out. Today we heard directly from both Josh Viertel and Poppy Tooker.

                                                                                              "Get Back on Track, Slow Food USA" by Poppy Tooker, Zester Daily

                                                                                              "The Soul of Slow Food: Fighting for Both Farmers and Eaters" by Josh Viertel, The Atlantic

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                And now Josh Viertel is out.

                                                                                                You can join the new discussion in progress about what's next for Slow Food here,

                                                                                                "Slow Food Turmoil Continues"