Good, clean and fair food for all. The mission of Slow Food is seemingly simple, but with implications that are anything but. The movement began in Italy almost 40 years ago when a popular fast food chain announced it was coming to town. Protests broke out rooted in fear for the future of Italy’s local food culture. But, in fittingly Italian fashion, protesters revolted holding large bowls of penne pasta instead of signs. They chanted, “We don’t want fast food … we want slow food!” Today, the Slow Food organization has chapters in more than 150 countries and a presence in almost every state in America.
Our local chapter, Slow Food Middle Tennessee (SFMTN), emerged in 2017. Founded by members of our community who had a vested interest in Nashville’s food scene, they were linked by a desire to connect like-minded people and get involved in the food community. Together, over the course of a year, they worked on their application, created a mission statement and determined the areas they would serve. The board is now comprised of seven Nashvillians who work together to spread the Slow Food movement across our city and beyond. Their chair, Katie Quine, tells us, “Prior to joining the board, I had no formal relationship with food other than the fact that I loved it. I moved to Nashville from out of state in 2017 and felt like it was my responsibility to understand where my food was coming from.”
Slow Food Middle Tennessee’s mission is threefold: to facilitate accessible educational programs; to provide awareness of and equal access to good, clean and fair foods; and to advocate for a healthy, delicious, sustainable and diverse food system for the community of Middle Tennessee. Each of their initiatives touches on one or more of these missions.
The Snail of Approval program honors restaurants committed to “good, clean and fair food for all.” Currently, eight Middle Tennessee restaurants have been stamped with the snail, including Henley, Henrietta Red, Nicky’s Coal Fired, Husk, Margot Café and Bar, The Old School, Pinewood Kitchen and Mercantile and Two Ten Jack. “Being able to shine the spotlight on change-makers in the food community is my favorite part about what we do,” Katie shares. The application for a Snail of Approval is extensive – not just taking into consideration the origin of ingredients (the closer, the better!) but also the wages paid to employees and the environmental impact of the restaurant itself, among other factors. With an ongoing application and nomination process, the Snail of Approval concept continues to grow in our market and is a great marker of the restaurants you can feel great about supporting and enjoying.
In order to facilitate educational programs, Slow Food fundraises year-round for their Community Enrichment Grants, awarded to local organizations with Slow Food ideals. These grants allow smaller organizations to grow and educate others on the paradigms of sustainable food. This year, seven organizations received grants. Green Door Gourmet, an organic produce farm and agritourism center, received the Blossom Award. This award means lower field trip costs for 500 Title 1 school students and the opportunity to educate our youth on everything from the life cycle of a vegetable to farm technology to flavor balance in cooking. Plant the Seed also received the Blossom Award to create an after-school gardening program for third-grade students. SFMTN identifies the organizations with good, clean, fair food for all at their core and supports them both financially and physically.
SFMTN also hosts its own educational events. Members of the organization are invited to one event per quarter that focuses on a different informative topic. Past events have included a “Grow Your Own Cocktail” class with Sara Gasbarra at Nicky’s, a “Slow Wine” tasting with Tavola Wine at The Old School and more. These classes tie in Slow Food ideals as well as Snail of Approval restaurants so that members get a taste (figuratively and, of course, literally) of where the organization is involved in the community and how it is driving its mission forward.
Right now, the team is most excited about their upcoming fermentation workshop benefitting Slow Food Middle Tennessee. Sandor Katz, one of the biggest names in fermentation and a James Beard Award-winning author on the subject, will teach attendees how to prepare traditional Thai sour ribs at The Green Pheasant. Workshops like these provide education to members and non-members alike, all while raising money to put back into other educational opportunities.
“We believe this is an especially important time for the local food movement as the Middle Tennessee region is challenged with adapting to rapid growth and changes,” explains Katie. Actively promoting local, organic and accessible foods, as well as educating our community on why those foods are important, Slow Food Middle Tennessee is an organization that has Nashville’s best interests at heart. They equip Nashvillians old and new with the resources they need to make the greenest, wisest choices when it comes to food.
For more information about Slow Food Tennessee, visit their website here. They are currently accepting new members, as well as applications for the board. Memberships, which start at $30, are open to all who are interested in the movement.
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