The Slow Food Movement

April 20, 2009

Defined as the opposite of fast food (because everything is binaries and opposition!), slow food is a lifestyle of eating real, wholesome, natural foods, with an emphasis on getting involved in the preparation and production of the food so that when we eat, it is a shared communal experience and something to really enjoy. As you likely are fully aware, this coincides perfectly with my personal philosophy on healthy living*.

I would really love to take part in the Slow Food Movement and be an active participant in promoting this cause. And I think that to some extent I achieve that with my blog. Even so, I would like to become more involved. That is how I began searching “slow food” on the Internet, looking for information.

I discovered Slow Food International and was pumped to join and lend my voice to the cause. But I was stopped in my tracks when I noticed that there is a membership fee. That’s right: to be a part of the Slow Food Movement, you’ve got to pay up. Essentially, Slow Food International is saying that it costs dollars to eat well. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, because all organizations seem to cost something to be able to be a part of it, but one of the main values of Slow Food is that it’s this community of sharing with an emphasis on a familial, unified group!

I love the idea of Slow Food. It is the way that I live my life. But I do not approve of how blatantly middle and upper class the Slow Food Movement continues to be geared towards. That is not right. Slow Food is something that we should all be doing, no matter where we live in the world or what kind of background we have. We all have a right to the access of healthy, pure food. It is wrong that only those of us who can afford luxury are consuming healthy meals and able to learn about the Slow Food way of life.

As a student with bills and classes to pay, I really object. In the Slow Food Companion, it is stated that “Slow Food is a grassroots association open to all, and the diversity of it’s members is one of it’s greatest strengths” (11). If your definition of “diversity” is “white middle-class middle-aged career-driven married men and women with families”, then yes, I believe that this statement is accurate. But unfortunately, that sure isn’t my definition of diversity. It seems to me that in trying to be inclusive, Slow Food has resulted in really ostracizing a large group of people. In their exclusion they have lost one of the principle values which should be fundamental to the notion of slow food: involve everyone so that we can all reap the benefits and lead happier, healthier lives. Is that not the point of so much of what we do?

I was really troubled with the breakdown of the membership fee, too: 30-40% goes toward membership materials, postage etc; 20-30% goes toward local event planning; 15-20% goes toward newsletters and meetings; 10-15% goes toward publications; and 10% goes toward development of projects worldwide.

My opinion is that the development of projects worldwide should be getting about 80% of the membership fee. Ten percent is ridiculously low and quite frankly that’s shameful. With a movement as important as this, I expect to be seeing some real progress. Basically, it looks as though there’s just a membership fee so that it can be an elite program for the privileged.

If you want to learn more about the key concepts of Slow Food, Adrian Peace has written a really fantastic article entitled Barossa Slow The Representation and Rhetoric of Slow Food’s Regional Cooking, which discusses this very issue of the problems inherent to the Slow Food Movement.

I believe very strongly in the Slow Food Movement. However I think that some changes are needed within the organization to accommodate for a wider group of people. We should actively be working towards increased awareness about the problems of fast food and the importance of engaging in a slow food lifestyle. Through the inclusion of everyone and really doing something about cutting back on fast food- particularly the availability of fast food- as well as focusing on how we can restructure our busy lifestyles to incorporate Slow Food, I think that we can move forward to improving the health of people everywhere. We need to address the issues of the expense of healthy foods; we need to address the issues of the amount of time and effort needed to eat healthy in relation to our work schedules. A reorganization of our priorities is required.

What do you think? Is this as serious an issue as I think it is? I will acknowledge that I do not know very much about Slow Food International, nor am I an expert in the Slow Food Movement. Perhaps I have read into it completely wrong- I would love it if someone could help me out by pointing me in the right direction. Does anyone know if a lot more progress has been made with the Slow Food Movement than I think? Am I just making assumptions here? Share any info you’ve got!

*I have been playing around a bit with this site and have recently updated my Challenges page and the My Health Philosophy page. I have also added a new page on the sidebar: Healthy Recommendations! Check it out to see some of my favorite health-related books and products.

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway– you’ve got until Thursday night! Winners to be announced this Friday.


  1. Sagan, I am just now learning more and more about the Slow Food movement, while realizing that I actually have been attuned to it almost my whole life. I completely agree with you re: membership fees, info availability, etc.

    I wonder if there are any non-profits devoted to educating individuals of low income households regarding food choices and healthy lifestyles.

    Have a great Monday!

  2. amazing post, Sagan, as always. I too have been troubled by the fact that the slow food mvmt (and so much of the overall ‘eathing well’ food movement in general. organic etc) is avail to the middle & upper and NOT to the general population.
    heck, as this economy fails to rally back as we’d hoped even the solid middle class (waves hand) is becoming exempt as well.
    Rupal raises an interesting question about the nonprofits…

  3. Excellent points! I start getting antsy whenever something becomes a “movement” or a “revolution”. I’m all for organization, but before you know it, you’ve got overhead and unnecessary(IMO) expenditures. I’d much rather put my extra $$$ to community gardens and local programs that teach folks how to cook the local produce in healthier ways.

    I’m fortunate to have both worlds available to me–the convenience of fast foods and a plethora of locally grown foods. My family grows many of their own fruits and veggies and I can usually barter something for a good meal. πŸ™‚

  4. I love the IDEA of slow food, I’m just not always willing to take the time. I need a slow personal chef, and I suspect that probably ain’t happening.

  5. I still have more to learn about the Slow Food movement, but this post definitely helped define a few things for me about it – thank you so much!!

  6. You know, I’ve been hearing about the “slow food movement” for years now but I never knew it was an actual group that you had to pay to join! I agree it’s – it’s ridic!

  7. You perfectly summarized my problems with SFI. I really love the organization and think they’re doing wonderful things, but for those of us who aren’t in the money, it’s hard to take part. It’s important that they do spread the word about healthy eating and supporting local agriculture, but I’d like some more of my money to reflect the support part.

    For now, I’m waiting for the farmer’s market to start back up, so I can do my own part in supporting and eating local. And until I have a house with a yard (hopefully soon) and can plant my own garden, I’ll be shopping at the market. Where they have the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten!

  8. This is so fascinating, Sagan, thank you so much for sharing!

  9. Rupal- if there ARE some nonprofits like that, I want to know about them!!

    MizFit- good point about the economy… it’s just destructive towards Slow Food.

    Cammy- ooh lucky! And I COMPLETELY agree with your sentiments about putting the money toward local gardens etc… THAT is what the Slow Food Movement should really be about.

    Crabby- hehe they need to have a Slow Food chef school… fun times!

    VeggieGirl & Danielle- glad you enjoyed πŸ™‚

    Charlotte- it’s really awful, isn’t it?

    Gena- mmm fresh tomatoes. Farmers markets are fantastic.

  10. It does seem that sometimes it takes money to be healthy. You must have time to learn and practice how to be healthy, but when you are poor, time is taken up by multiple jobs to make ends meet. But at least the exercising part of the equation is still free. At least we can all take walks.

  11. I see where you are coming from in terms of breaking down the fees. But in some ways, the other amount is devoted to education and awareness, which I also see the benefits of that. Spreading the word to others, as well as providing useful information, I think is a good thing.

  12. Hi Sagan

    Is Jamie Oliver famous in Canada? In the UK he is huge, he’s a TV cook, and he recently had a series where he taught to cook a wide range of people who had never cooked in their lives, getting them to commit to pass on what they’d learnt to others. One of them was an unemployed single mum of about 22 or 23 who’d fed her kid totally on fast food previously, and she turned out to have a real aptitude for both cooking and mass catering, and Jamie got her a place on a chef’s course, just transforming her life. He’s now opened a ‘restaurant’ in London where you go and learn to cook, the charge is per dish that you want to learn and it’s about the same as for a supermarket ready meal, but all fresh ingredients and you get the skill. This kind of approach seems to me just what we really need – it’s all about taking cookery off the telly and away from its slightly snooty image, and on to the streets, so that people have the skills they’ve never been taught, to eat healthily and deliciously. Jamie is a bit of a hero really. Also big on chicken / pig welfare. Here’s a link to the learning-to-cook campaign page of his website: http://www.jamieoliver.com/jamies-ministry-of-food

  13. great post and thanks for bringing the issue to the attention of many who haven’t heard much about it.

  14. Wow, never heard of the Slow Foods movement until reading this. Being poor myself, I can definitely agree with you on all the points you made.

  15. Small Steps to Health- you’re right about the exercise! We can all certainly do that.

    Sharon- I agree; I just wish that there was MORE awareness out there. And that it wasn’t just awareness being spread to a specific group of people (ie. the middle class)

    Liz- I LOVE Jamie! Thanks so much for the link; I knew he was really into eating natural and all but I didn’t realize to what extent he was involved with all of that. He’s fantastic.

    Shannon & Tony- we’ve definitely got to spread awareness about these things! πŸ™‚

  16. I completely share you indignation over having to pay for a membership to the “movement”. Slow Food is almost a lifestyle, which I’ve completely embraced, because it’s natural and it makes me feel in harmony with my body and my surroundings. It makes me feel a bit “zen”. Pushing that aside, I’m sick of how pretentious yuppies keep taking over movements that should be completely inclusive and embracing and makign them, well, exclusive. I’m sorry if I sound bitter, maybe I am a little, it’s just that they keep pushing wellness away from the majority and that’s unfair. Hahaha done ranting. Great post!

  17. Thanks Sagan, I always learn things here!

    I’ve joked about fast food not being fast enough, as it’s too easy to catch, but our health as a species is no joking matter, and everything that works to help with that is a good thing!

  18. I don’t agree that it needs to be formalized as a movement. After all, it is an ethic, not an initiative.

  19. Thanks for doing the research as I’ve often thought about looking into it. I wholeheartedly agree with westwood – you are already participating and therefore don’t need to join as such.

    I also really like your point about priorities with regards to food. Preparing food needs to go back on the agenda. What are we doing if we are too busy to prepare our own food?!? And what are we passing onto the next generation, convenience food or skills that they can use throughout their lives to feed themselves properly? Sorry, I’m very passionate about this one πŸ™‚

  20. I agree, I think that a “movement” that charges a membership fee is a bit irritating. It discredits itself when those fees go to something other than the stated purpose of the movement.

  21. In a way, this post made me want to bang my head on the desk.

    Pay a fee to join an organization that promotes the lifestyle that I already live?? WTF?

    You, Sagan, are young and energetic and highly intelligent — YOU start a slow food movement with no membership fee!! With all you have learned and shared with us by blogging, I have no doubt you could make a real success of it! What’s holding you back? πŸ™‚

  22. Marta- still laughing over the “pretentious yuppies”- I adore a good rant πŸ™‚

    Dr. J & Westwood- guess we sometimes have to just rely on ourselves to get healthy…

    Spring Girl- LOVE the passion; you’re absolutely right.

    Tricia- precisely; it’s only HURTING the movement by doing so.

    Bag Lady- re: banging head on desk: ME TOO. And be careful what you wish for πŸ˜‰ in all seriousness, actually, that’s a really good idea. Bloggings just the starting point!

  23. Um. This needs to be a movement? We need to belong to an organization? Really?

    I grew up in a home where eating out was rare. Mainly it happened if we were traveling long distances. My parents grew a garden and canned/preserved/froze produce from the garden for winter consumption. But back then, growing up in a small town, there wasn’t much in the way of fresh fruits & veggies available at the stores in the winter.

    I totally agree that fast food should not be relied upon as a staple. But it doesn’t seem all that complicated to me. Go to the grocery store. Buy food. Go home and cook dinner. It’s not absolutely necessary that everything be organic. You don’t have to grown your own. It doesn’t have to be fancy. We have so much available to us these days – it should be easier to eat healthy, not harder.

    I do think it would be a great thing if there was more emphasis on locally grown foodstuffs, where available. I think it’s a shame that the bigger chain stores won’t stock much in the way of local goods and farmer’s markets aren’t always easy to get to. But still.

    I don’t know the specifics of the Slow Food Movement but it just doesn’t seem like it should be that complicated.

  24. Have never heard of the Slow Food Movement but will definitely look into it more. Great concept!

  25. I don’t know why Slow Food has to be so expensive. Over in Berkeley/Oakland, where Alice Waters started all this, there is another movement that brings and/or grows veggies and fruits into the parts of town that seem to be liquor stores only. There are food justice movements, and sustainable food that isn’t just for the limousine liberals, they just tend to be poorer, thus further underground.

  26. I’m a bit fan of the Slow Food philosophy but you don’t have to join a movement to enjoy the benefits. All of us can hit up the local farmers markets or even plant small gardens in our homes or apartments. We can cook our own meals using “real food” instead of processed trash. We can start websites to encourage more Slow Food eating habits like you are doing right now! πŸ™‚ There’s lots of ways to support slow food instead of paying mega dollars to join a group.

  27. I haven’t heard anything about the slow food movement before now. I hate that it costs money and wish that it really was something open to all. Fast/bad food is so easily accessible to all but good/smart/slow food isn’t? Bah! But we can definitely follow these ideas and live them without joining some group. Im going to read more about it now that you have piqued my interest.

  28. I had no idea that there was a membership fee or anything like that! I always knew about “slow food” but I thought it was an ideology, not an exclusive upper/middle-class club! Jeez. I just try (and fail, a lot, but hey – I’m trying) to follow as many slow food habits as I can.

  29. Java Chick- you said it! It should not be that complicated.

    Missicat- let me know what you think of it.

    Julie- that’s interesting; I wasn’t aware of that.

    Healthyhollywood- precisely. We can all do our little bit.

    Mary- we’ll start our own non-profit movement!

    Maggie- that’s what I thought when I originally heard about it, too. Apparently, however, ideologies cost money.

  30. I’m not a fan of the whole “movement” concept much like my dislike of the “health food” aisle at the supermarket. Real food that grows in the ground is food and that’s all there is too it. Sagan you are already inspiring and motivating people to get back to basics and eat the way we are built too, you don’t need to pay a fee to be part of that.

  31. Hm. Did you think about emailing them with your thoughts? Maybe as a blogger/student/supporter they’d let you participate for free? I dunno, I’m kind of perplexed.. I feel like some stuff should definitely be free..

  32. Hi Sagan

    was about to say something similar to Juliet – but a bit wider – I think it would be very interesting if you alerted the Slow Food Movement to your blog and all the responses, and invited them to reply. It would be good to hear their side of the argument as well. And who knows – it could even influence their future strategy.

  33. Berni- thanks, that’s really sweet πŸ™‚

    Juliet & Liz- That’s a really excellent idea. I’ll see if I can get some feedback from coordinators of the Slow Food Movement.

  34. […] is of the best quality. Taza Chocolate also states that it is a member of Slow Food USA (which we had a lively discussion about back in April) and the ingredient list for their products is refreshingly short. This chocolate is dairy free, […]

  35. […] — and it’s a lifestyle. Whet your appetite, for free. (Start here. Try reading this. Here’s another good […]

  36. […] is of the best quality. Taza Chocolate also states that it is a member of Slow Food USA (which we had a lively discussion about back in April) and the ingredient list for their products is refreshingly short. This chocolate is dairy free, […]

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