Letter from Slow Food USA President Josh Viertel

Dear Slow Food Seacoast Friends,

Please read the exerpts below from a great letter Slow Food leaders recently received from Slow Food USA’s president. It really describes the direction Slow Food is headed in. I hope it makes you feel good about your involvement, what we have already accomplished, and what we set out to do each time we meet, host educational events, or simply talk to one another – we are making a difference.

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Dear Slow Food leader,

Slow Food USA is going to change the way America eats. I’m excited by what we stand to accomplish together and I’m writing you this letter to convey three important things:

I want to share the goals I have for Slow Food and its local chapters. This will help to define the work we do together over the next twelve to eighteen months.

MAJOR GOALS

Historically, Slow Food has done inspired work locally, on the ground, and in our communities to raise awareness about the connections between food, land and people, and to make a better food system. It is time to build on and expand this work so that Slow Food can create deeper and broader changes in our food system. First, by ensuring our chapters are effectively connected on the ground to the organizations and people who are doing great work there; and second, by speaking with a united voice on key issues as we move forward.

* We can increase our reach, our impact and our value to members by making sure that we have strong connections in our communities between our chapters and each of the community leaders, individuals and other organizations doing related work there.
As we branch out to do work with and include youth, work on food justice, and work that serves those most hurt by our current food system, local connections will be a vital way in which chapters engage.

o Having strong local connections ensures your local chapters can help to serve the interests of all those doing related work in your communities.
o By being connected to a local network, a chapter offers more value to its members. More than any other reason, people join Slow Food to be part of a growing movement and to be connected to a local community of people who share similar values and work. When a member becomes a part of your chapter, that member should become a part of a community and a movement.
o By having strong local connections, we broaden the reach of our local networks. This allows us to have greater impact as we advocate nationally.

* We will speak with a national, unified voice on key issues to help our movement change the food system. With local chapters and members all over the country, ready to speak out and call for change in our food system, Slow Food is perfectly positioned to advocate for national policy change. Already Slow Food is being brought into conversations with federal policy makers and White House cabinet members to talk about the issues that matter most to us.
o President Obama has voiced support for our cause but has made it clear that if we want to see change happen, we need to show him a social movement.
o We have never united our local voices into a national voice before, but now is the time to make it happen.
o In the coming months we will be working with you towards national campaigns on issues in our movement that can unite our voices and draw broad support. This is new work for many of us, but it is the work that we are called to do.

* Annual Report on Slow Food Chapter Activity: The annual reports you send us on your activity help us to create a clearer picture of what Slow Food is doing on the ground, nationally. Here are some highlights of your accomplishments in 2008.
o Over 30 new chapters opened in 2008. You now run 212 chapters, and there is a chapter in nearly every state. We only lack chapters in North and South Dakota, Kansas and Delaware.
o In 2008 you ran over 1100 events. That is more than three events every single day!
o More than 140 chapters are already involved in or want to be involved in advocating for food policy changes, creating more access to good, clean and fair food for underserved populations and educating members about food security issues.
o You raised and spent nearly one million dollars. Roughly half of the money you raised was spent on running events, which means money directed to good, clean, fair food producers, and education for members and the public. The remainder went to supporting good work changing our food system and building our movement. With it you established school gardens, sent farmers and students to Terra Madre, and ran amazing programs.
* Food Justice Primer: A NEW resource that offers ideas for beginning (or continuing) to work on food justice projects, including hunger and food access, urban farming, worker rights, food sovereignty and youth mentoring. It lists project ideas, samples of chapter projects, and local and national organizations who work in food justice. Find it at http://slowfoodusa.org/index.php/local_chapters/details/working_in_food_justice

In closing, I want to thank you again for all that you do for this organization, and for the sustainable food movement. Real community is built out of shared food and shared work. Even though we live far apart from each other, our food and our work are shared. So we are a community, a community trying to make a good, clean and fair food system. I feel blessed to be a part of this community, and I look forward to the good work we are going to do together.

Yours truly,

Josh Viertel
President, Slow Food USA