“Slow the Fork Down”

slow foodThe Phoenix Division of the Slow Food Movement is gaining traction in our community, where the focus is placed on local culinary heritage and social justice. The Slow Food Movement, globally and nationally, aims to deepen the public’s awareness surrounding our food systems and how they affect just about every aspect of our livelihood on this planet. A daunting task, surely, so let’s start with lunch.

Slow Food Phoenix’s most recent project is entitled “Feeding the Future,” during which attendees will sample diverse dishes made by a bold lineup of beloved chefs, including Charleen Badman of Scottsdale’s FnB and Eddie Hantas of East Valley favorite Hummus Xpress. There’s a twist to this sampling event, though: each chef’s budget will reflect the current National School Lunch Program (NSLP) budget, and will be served in the style of an American school lunch.

The NSLP was established under Harry S. Truman in 1946. Since then, the program has come to reach more than 30 million children.  With about $2.94 per student given to schools by the federal government, only about $1 is left to pay for the actual food.

Working with a small budget, the issue has deepened in that we now have children who are both overweight and malnourished. And to add to that, there is the issue of whether or not children will eat the food presented to them. Finding a way to incorporate more nutrient-rich foods and less processed foods in a manner that appeals to American culinary culture in young minds proves to be difficult. Research concludes that most of the waste from school lunch programs is fresh foods–fruits and vegetables–but that is not to say that consumption of fresh, unprocessed foods is not increasing as well. Education, leadership, and a shift in culture are paramount.

More recent statistics about how changes in the NSLP has impacted children will be available by 2018. The best we can do now is work with organizations such as Slow Food Phoenix as well as our schools to promote awareness and create change within our own communities.

Feeding the Future will be held on October 22 at the Farm at South Mountain. Tickets are $79, and all proceeds go toward Slow Food Phoenix’s efforts in improving school lunches and bringing food education to minds young and old.

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