Monday, November 30, 2009

Is Slow Food an Answer?

"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." (Marcus Tullius Cicero)

The Edible Schoolyard at P.S. 216, NYC. (Artist's rendering)

And there is another edible schoolyard on the west coast where the children work while chickens wander about.

There is even one in New Orleans.

Why are these important? Since the very concept of the United States of America, we have associated the bounty of the land, the goodness of life, with the idea of Democracy. We started as an agrarian society. The famed "Founding Fathers" were mostly farmers. All food was slow food.

Today, this country is covered from coast-to-coast and border-to-border, in every big city and small hamlet, with fast food available very fast. I don't want to get on my soap box here, but fast food is just not good for the human body.

One of the worst things about fast food is that while it is cheap and easily available, it is largely non-nourishing if not down right malnourishing. Those who have little choice except fast food, those less affluent, are considered "food insecure" (hungry, less than nourished). "If you’re going to patch up the worst signs of hunger, you probably want what little food poor people get to be more nutritious than what industrial agriculture is normally ready to provide. But injecting flour with vitamins doesn’t get you very far in tackling the root causes of this hunger — poverty."

What about the "good food?" Do the wealthy have access to the good food while the less affluent do not? If this is so, it does not feel like democracy. Our lives are bound intrinsically to the food we eat and how and when and where we eat it.

Can farmers markets go into the inner cities and thrive? In order for prices of "good food" to be reasonable for all people, can organic farms be subsidized as the giant agribusinesses are? Well, that certainly sounds more democratic. It would even seem to harken back to the founding sentiment to "promote the common welfare."

Maybe, this country can experience a shift away from fast-fast and back (but really forward) to a better way of growing and eating. And, ultimately, being more kindly human.

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