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Forget fast food, slow down for better well-being

There’s an old saying, you are what you eat. If you look at the average Australian diet, we’re in trouble. The rise of the 24/7 society, unsocial work hours and an accelerating pace of life have led the…

The Slow Food movement has arisen to counteract fast food and fast life. French Tart

There’s an old saying, you are what you eat. If you look at the average Australian diet, we’re in trouble.

The rise of the 24/7 society, unsocial work hours and an accelerating pace of life have led the consumption of fast food to soar. Nearly one in four of the meals we eat are prepared outside the home and they tend to contain more fat, salt and sugar than the homemade equivalent.

Alongside the negative health outcomes of fast food are the environmental impacts of industrialised food production and packaging, and management of food waste.

Time to slow down

A slow food movement has arisen to counteract fast food and fast life, by encouraging us to revalue the time we spend on preparing, sharing, and consuming food. It aims to enhance the personal connection between food producers and consumers, and reduce our reliance on mass-produced foods purchased from supermarket monopolies.

Slow Food is a global alternative food network, founded in 1989 in Italy by left-wing food activist Carlo Petrini (though its origins can be traced back to 1986), which has grown to over 100,000 members across 153 countries, including 31 local branches within Australia. These branches, known as convivia, are run by volunteers who coordinate activities in their area: shared meals and tastings, visits to local producers and farms, and educational events about the source of food, farming methods and sustainability.

Local convivia have also become involved in school kitchen garden projects and supported the growth of farmers' markets.

More broadly, Slow Food promotes the purchase of local produce with a reduction in food miles and a celebration of regional cuisines and local food traditions.

Fair trade is a central concern, with the aim to reduce worker/farmer exploitation and facilitate equitable trading relationships between developing and developed nations.

The movement also advocates for sustainable agricultural techniques and encourages the reduction of food additives, irradiation, and genetic modification.

Perhaps most importantly, Slow Food attempts to show how we can revalue the time we spend on food so as to invest in quality food time for our personal (health and pleasure) and collective (social, cultural, and environmental) benefit.

Studying Slow Food

We have explored what motivates or deters people from engaging in ethical (slow) consumption, and their experiences with the Slow Food movement.

Our first study explored the representation of Slow Food within the Australian print media to provide insights into how public opinion may be formed. Slow Food was portrayed in a positive but largely uncritical, apolitical way, despite the left-wing origins of the movement.

In examining the theme of time in our data, we found an emphasis on slowing down the pace of life. Time was both an opportunity to be taken, and a harsh master:

The Slow Food philosophy enjoins us to take the time to enjoy one of life’s daily pleasures… there’s no doubt that cooking, eating and life in general is a lot more enjoyable when we’re not slaves of time.

Australian Slow Food branches have helped support local farmers' markets. WBUR

Our second study explored the experiences and motivations of consumer and producer participants in a Melbourne-based Slow Food festival. From our interview data, “time” emerged as a key theme underlying people’s interest in Slow Food as a form of virtuous consumption, but also a key challenge in terms of adopting a Slow Food lifestyle.

As one participant said:

I think that is why everybody is in a hurry because they don’t actually value that that’s the important thing to stop and do.

Another participant put the time challenge this way:

I’m still part of the rush of modern life but… I would want to eventually live that way. I just have to figure out how to do it… it’s a time issue. It’s a matter of changing my life to go into that time mode.

Why isn’t everyone slowing down?

Our participants acknowledged many barriers to adopting a Slow Food lifestyle, such as cost, time, and inconvenience. Slowing down requires a major investment of time in educating oneself about food and then procuring ethically produced food.

While many of our study participants said they supported the movement and held ethical consumer values, they weren’t necessarily prepared to change their behaviour.

Critics of Slow Food have argued the movement caters to the privileged and wealthy who can afford the time and cost involved. They suggest that its focus on gourmet experiences reflect elitist connotations of “good taste”, luxury goods, and social distinction. One study in the United States reports that Slow Food members tended to favour gastronomic experiences over political action.

What can we learn from Slow Food?

For individuals, the movement reminds us of the need to be aware of the origins of our food, including the implications of food production on personal health and the wider environment.

But individual action can only go so far, and the barriers are likely to be too great for most.

At the societal level, Slow Food highlights the need for changes to our food system. Our continuing studies in this area aim to gain an understanding of what attracts people to Slow Food and how this attraction may be translated into behavioural and wider social change.

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59 Comments sorted by

  1. Michael Croft

    logged in via LinkedIn

    "You are what you eat; so don't be fast, cheap, easy or fake." promo tag line for the movie Food Inc.

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  2. Geoff Russell

    Computer Programmer, Author

    It's been over 4 years since "food miles" was blown out of the water, but it still keeps popping up. The HUGE factor in the environmental impact of your food is what you eat, not where it comes from. The greenhouse emissions from the cattle industry turning forest into grass in Australia (this is called deforestation when it happens overseas) has averaged about 69 million tonnes of CO2 annually for the past 20 years and that doesn't even include the methane from the cattle which occupy the grass…

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    1. Paul Francis

      Subversive

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff,
      While I do agree that far too much meat is produced (and consumed) on the planet, I disagree with your statement that food miles have been "blown out of the water". Fruit, veg, grains etc are all transported across states (and countries) costing a vast amount in time, money and resources - including the burning of fossil fuels. I am afraid you have missed the point of the slow movement completely, and instead have tried to align it with mass-produced, intensively farmed meat - something which…

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    2. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Hi Geoff, complex problems are rarely the result of simplistic binary thinking like "four legs good, two legs bad". This is particularly so when dealing with the complex interactions within a meta-system like food. Cattle and/or meat are not the problem, it is the complex interactions of who, what, why, when, where and how of industrial meat production that is the problem.

      For example there were herds of up to two million Bison (cattle equivalent) wandering the Great Plains before cattle were…

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    3. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Michael Croft

      Correction - first line should read. Complex problems are rarely the result of, and solved by, simplistic binary thinking ..........

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    4. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Michael Croft

      You illustrate my point perfectly. The supposed balance of bison and grass may or may not have been real, but in any event it will have had to do with numbers of bison, not symbiosis or binary thinking. The planet has never supported anything like 1.4 billion cattle and a billion sheep. One estimate is that current livestock numbers out consume prehistoric mega-herbivores by about 6 to 1.

      http://environmentalresearchweb.org/cws/article/news/44038

      The serengeti populations were always tiny compared to modern ruminant populations. Here's a chart comparing populations from
      1500 with those in 2004 ...

      http://bravenewclimate.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/rsubak.png

      As for the preindustrial methane balance. What we know is that the methane produced by the wildebeest, wetlands, and bison and other sources was balanced by ALL the methane sinks across the entire planet. The idea that there was some great plains/bison balance is nothing more than a romantic notion.

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    5. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Paul Francis

      The slow food movement doesn't face the problems of scale. What kind of food system can feed 7 billion people? It's not good enough to say "I live on (or buy from somebody who lives on) 5 hectares with my organic chickens and veggies, I'm allright Jack" ... unless that kind of system can scale to meet everybody's food needs.

      So tell me the maximum number of "quality" chickens that can be produced according to "slow" methods.

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    6. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Calm down a bit, Geoff, the food miles idea has not been 'blown out of the water' - the best contemporary analysis suggests that it is fairly small - at most about 10% of the total ecological footprint of food and highly variable from place to place and transport system to transport system - and certainly far less importan tthan the types of food you eat and the means of production but, in a situation where we need to pull every lever we can get at, food miles isn't complete crap - it just needs…

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    7. Shane Barrett

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Michael Croft

      Michael,

      There are many problems with Allan Savory's approach. Here is a critique by the former lead environmental advisor of the world bank highlighting some of them.

      http://freefromharm.org/agriculture-environment/meat-lies-videotape-a-deeply-flawed-ted-talk/

      Also, I have noticed that many meat eaters walk away from this video believing simply that buying more meat equates to fighting global warming. (I'm not accusing you of this by the way). This could not be further from the truth. The majority of the meat that Australians eat has not been raised according to the Allan Savory's methods. If someone were really convinced by this video, shouldn't they avoid meat until they can find some that is 'Savory approved'?

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    8. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Paul Francis

      Geoff and Paul,

      On the question of meat, I think it's important to keep separate the issues of (i) what is healthy for (individual) humans to eat; and (ii) what is healthy for a planet containing seven billion humans (and counting).

      One of the profound facts that is contained in “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes (a former science writer for The New York Times) is that humans can live healthy almost on meat alone.

      Good Calories, Bad Calories - aka Good Science, Bad Science…

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    9. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to rory robertson

      HI Rory,

      Some people can be healthy on all kinds of weird diets, but others die young on a good diet. Sorting out the epidemiology from the anecdotes isn't easy, but there are good reasons why the medical establishment doesn't bother with Taubes. Michael Greger wrote "Carbophobia" a while back to expose the Atkins scam, but much of it is more widely applicable and Taubes gets a few mentions

      http://www.atkinsexposed.org/atkins/105/Center_for_Science_in_the_Public_Interest.htm

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    10. John McBain

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      When considering global footprint and sustainability what we can impact is our individual footprint. Add them all together and we have total footprint. There is absolutely no doubt that eating a vegy grown in your own front yard has far less impact that one grown in China or Brazil.
      It is also true that much red meat has a huge impact, altho in this country it is less so than in the oft quoted USA.
      Even in this country, there are quite large differences : beef from NW WA has less impact in terms…

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    11. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff, I find Taubes's discussion and documentation on "Reducing Diets" and "Unconventional Diets" in Chapters 19 and 20 pretty compelling. Taubes cites more than a century's worth of evidence demonstrating low-carb diets being effective in reversing obesity. Serious scientists are quoted on the (apparent) fact that meat, cheese and eggs tend to be much more satiating than carbohydrates (especially refined carbs), allowing the overweight and obese to eat less and drop weight without constant hunger…

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    12. Shane Barrett

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to rory robertson

      Rory,

      There is a YouTube series that critiques and fact checks Gary Taubes' work. It's definitely worth checking out.

      http://youtu.be/QImWYirF0es

      Geoff,

      I didn't know Michael Greger wrote a book about low carb. Thanks for that, I'll add it to my reading list.

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    13. Shane Barrett

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to rory robertson

      Rory,
      You say,

      ''On the question of meat, I think it's important to keep separate the issues of (i) what is healthy for (individual) humans to eat; and (ii) what is healthy for a planet containing seven billion humans (and counting).''

      I think a lot of us should take the second issue much more seriously. I think it should be a priority if we want a future for our kids. There are lots of healthy ways to eat. Why not aim for one that deals with both issues simultaneously? It seems like all health authorities are saying ''reduce your meat intake''. I don't know of any who say ''increase your meat intake''. That would be a simple place to start.

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    14. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      Shane,

      I watched the youtube clip you suggested. I'm surprised that such a pedestrian effort is the best you could find in an attempt to discredit Taubes. After all, Taubes is a hated figure amongst a significant proportion of "scientists" in the area of nutrition and diet, obesity and related maladies. That's not surprising, of course, given that he revealed the area to be replete with intellectual laziness, not to say incompetence. He really did take out an axe in his "Epilogue":

      "This…

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    15. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      Thanks Shane, there are problems with Allan's approach, but the only criticism that stacks up is that he is one eyed 'this is the only way' - no question that he is an evangelist. That said I have seen holistic management work and not work, and every time it has been operator error and not the system itself. The HM system, if implemented correctly, works a treat.

      But to Australia, an educated guess is less than 10% of Australian grazing properties actually practice HM, and of those 10% at best…

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    16. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to rory robertson

      "One of the profound facts that is contained in “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes (a former science writer for The New York Times) is that humans can live healthy almost on meat alone."

      So long as you include scurvy, constipation and a higher risk of bowel cancer "healthy", I guess.

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    17. rory robertson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Dr Sue, you might well "guess" on "scurvy, constipation and a higher risk of bowel cancer", but again you would be excessively opinionated and wrong. On the first two points at least. The third is debatable. But I will not be debating it with you, Dr Sue, because in our earlier dealings you revealed yourself as unprepared to confirm that up is not down. You were not prepared to confirm the obvious when presented with obviously faulty science.

      Dr Sue, my memory is that your commitment to…

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    18. Shane Barrett

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      No problem Geoff. It's a great series. The guy has gone to a lot of effort tracking down Taubes' references.

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    19. Shane Barrett

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      Some of them are not so easy to find. (old studies from obscure journals) He also critiques other people in the low carb and paleo movements.

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    20. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Shane Barrett

      Thanks Shane, read the article and embedded links. It is a critique that has lumped cell grazing, short duration grazing, mobbed grazing, time controlled grazing, rapid rotation grazing and HM under the one banner, which is obviously flawed reasoning. The article and links confirms that it is operator error that is a fault, they then make an unverified jump to 'the method doesn't work.

      The link to the University of Arizona paper clearly states that the 13 properties evaluated do not claim to be practising HM and yet they decide to evaluate the HM method based on those 13 properties?!? Makes me doubt the validity of the paper and why it was written.

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  3. Kenneth Mazzarol
    Kenneth Mazzarol is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired Auto Engineer and teacher

    If you wander around the fresh fruit and veg sections of the shops you can see dozens of foods that one can eat right there and then that do not require cooking. Mushrooms, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet corn etc., not to mention all the fruits in saeson. We have become addicted to the Colonel's salts and herbs disguising lifeless foods; the aroma of cooking wafting out the doors inviting the weak fatties to come and partake. It is possible to build a home without a kitchen. Imagine the time wasted cooking, cooking wrecks food, not to mention the power bill, that could be spent with the spouse/partner or children, or even engaging in a worthwhile hobby. Let's not ape the Americans, let us think for ourselves and be healthier than they.

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  4. Gary Cassidy

    Monash University

    Interesting initiative. Our current food system / food environment has been let to run wild and in a direction that's not good for our health. Part of the reason is the assumption of choice - i.e. People can choose to put healthy or unhealthy foods into their body. The big problem with this assumption is that peoples actions and choices are highly influenced by their environment. Improving our food environment is desperately required!

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    1. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Gary Cassidy

      Gary I think cost is probably a bigger factor, particularly where I live. To feed a family of 4, the cost of ingredients, (fresh vegetables), is huge. The area I live in does not have any market gardens, every bit of fresh, (I use this term loosely as what we get is usually cold stored for months before we see it on the shelves), and do to the cost of transport, very, very, expensive. There is little choice, and if you are on a low or fixed income, it is more economically viable to spend $20 on junk food, that will fill the kids stomachs, than $30-$40 on meat and vegetables to cook yourself.

      There are a growing number of people that are using their back yards to grow whatever fresh fruit and vege they can, but this also carries a cost, in water, (very important consideration), and time.

      Agree with your post re the assumption of choice.

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    2. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Sorry typing faster than my brain is working, Should read "The area I live in does not have any market gardens, every bit of fresh fruit and vege, (I use this term loosely as what we get is usually cold stored for months before we see it on the shelves), is trucked in, and due to the cost of transport, very, very, expensive."

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    3. Paul Francis

      Subversive

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith, may I ask what area you are in?
      Veg that is "in season" is usually far cheaper that at other times of the year (for example), and from my experience at buying junk food you don't seem to get much for $20 these days...

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    4. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Paul Francis

      Paul, I live in a remote town in Western Australia, primarily a mining area, with some broad acre farming, (export wheat and canola). We have a very low annual rainfall, (semi arid country), and very poor soil, with a lot of salt affected soil and groundwater.

      It is definitely cheaper to buy junk food, (I count heavily processed food sold in supermarkets, as junk food), than it is to buy fresh fruit and vege.

      For example, a packet of 1kg frozen chips, at around $3, is cheaper than buying potatoes at $5-6 per kilo, or even cheaper when you buy a family serving of chips from the take away shop at $2.50.

      It is also cheaper to buy a packet of high sugar, high fat, muesli bars, than it is to buy fresh fruit for the kids lunches.

      When you are on a low or fixed income, as many people here are, every cent counts when you are making choices about what food you feed yourself and your family.

      Personally, I think the "slow food" movement is fantastic.

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    5. Paul Francis

      Subversive

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Judith,
      Sounds like some harsh conditions :-(
      Do you think something like a community garden would work there?
      It's a great way of promoting some of the ideals behind slow food, and a way to get some fresh fruit and veg.
      Bill Mollison (one of the founders of the Permaculture movement) has started gardens in a variety of locations and conditions with great success; including some very arid areas...
      You would be surprised at what you can achieve on a small patch of ground with just a few willing helpers :-)
      Just an idea, if you are interested I could forward some links.

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    6. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Paul Francis

      Thanks Paul, but we already have a community garden, and its going fairly well, although water is still a big problem, particularly as it also gets pretty hot here in the summer, a few days of above 42C pretty much kills everything, and we get more than a few days here. We have rainwater tanks, but the downside is you need actual rain to fill them.

      The primary school is going to implement Stephanie Alexanders program for a school kitchen garden in the winter, (no point in the summer), and also…

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    7. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Hi judith, maybe it's worth experimenting a little in your community garden :)
      One partial solution would be to grow dryland adapted native bush foods rather than non-indigenous traditional vege/fruit varieties during dry periods and add other crops when water is available. Shade would also help of course and if there's no natural shade, artificial shade could help for those scorching days.
      Reusing treated waste water, mulching and techniques, like planting corn very deep to stop the young shoots…

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    8. Sharon Lee

      FlavourCrusader

      In reply to Judith Olney

      One more thing, it may be worth seeing if the health promotion team at your Medicare Local would like to partner with your school/community groups for your gardens and food literacy programs etc. They could assist with applying for grants, program management etc.

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    9. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Thanks Suzy, I would love to look at growing more native foods in a garden setting, and I agree, they would be far better suited to the climate. My town has a large Indigenous population so there is plenty of local knowledge on what to eat, and where to find these foods in the bush, but not a lot of knowledge about how to cultivate these plants, definitely something worth pursuing.

      We have looked at treated waste water for our community garden, but to comply with council and health department…

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    10. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sharon Lee

      Thank you FC for the link, what a great idea, and I will definitely be contacting this organisation. My neighbour and friend is an Indigenous elder here, (and very keen gardener), I can't wait to show her this website, thank you very much.

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    11. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sharon Lee

      Thanks FC, we don't have a Medicare Local, the nearest is 400kms away, but they might be worth contacting anyway. We have had support from the Aboriginal Community Council, and we are looking at contacting the grants committee for Royalties for Regions, (a W.A. thing). The Men in Sheds have probably been the most helpful, with practical help.

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    12. Sharon Lee

      FlavourCrusader

      In reply to Judith Olney

      Hi Judith,
      Pity your Medicare Local is not so local - but it's great you're working with other organisations!

      The Quarnbys have had success with cultivating natives - http://www.outbackpride.com.au/communities - perhaps they could advise? It does take time, tasting and skill building to use different produce with confidence. But it is doable (especially if there are people to share their skills).

      I agree co-operation and community is one of the best things about slow food (besides the food, of course!)

      Best of luck!

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    13. Sharon Lee

      FlavourCrusader

      In reply to Judith Olney

      I keep saying "one more thing" but maybe this will be my last "thing"!!!

      Judith, I would love to share your/community's story. When you have some time, can you email info AT flavourcrusader DOT com?

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    14. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Sharon Lee

      Thanks again, you have been a great help, I will definitely give you an email and let you know we get on. :)

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    15. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Judith Olney

      You can start one - the community garden could be the initial venue, or another central public space, the council needs to give permission and may have certain rules like no selling of homegrown eggs and all processed food has to be prepared in a commercial kitchen. We had no market, but a willing group of citizens who got together and started. It's only once a month, but everyone now looks forward to market day and it has been going for 5 years.
      Initially it takes a little effort to get started…

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    16. Judith Olney

      Ms

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Hi Suzy, definitely an idea worth looking at, we do have arts and craft markets occasionally, so it would be interesting to see if produce could be integrated into this. One of the problems I can see, is that there is just no enough people that produce food to make it viable, but even a small start can be built upon.

      Its been wonderful to get so many great ideas, thanks again :)

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  5. Reg Olives

    logged in via Twitter

    Supportive of the concept of 'slow food' and looking forward to your continuing research results. The idea you put up on 'time' is fundamental. If consumers don't have the convenience (vis a vis time) to rock up to a weekend farmers market then I'd suggest that any sustainable positive outcomes are reduced in challenging the 'faster food' market. So how to get slow food into the main supermarkets? That's a whole different supply chain challenge! Good luck nonetheless in informing us of possible solutions.

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    1. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Reg Olives

      I think slow food has as much to do with community as with food. Our small local farmers market happens only once a month, but it is as much a social event as a shopping one. The village association provides a breakfast menu (sweet and savoury pancakes and sausage sizzle) supplemented by local fair trade coffee available and even on a rainy day people turn up to eat, sit, chat... before buying their selection of local produce from stalls. The produce market becomes a catalyst for social engagement and interaction.

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  6. Paul Francis

    Subversive

    "For individuals, the movement reminds us of the need to be aware of the origins of our food, including the implications of food production on personal health and the wider environment."
    This is something we as consumers are all capable of (regardless of socio-economic status).

    "But individual action can only go so far, and the barriers are likely to be too great for most."
    I do disagree with this statement though; we made the transition to the slow food lifestyle 4 years ago. Our family (and some of our friends), all of which were on low to average wages (with varying degrees of household debt & commitments) made the decision to change our habits in order to live cleaner, healthier & more ethical lifestyles - it is possible!
    Individual action can go a long way, especially if a lot of individuals are taking that action...

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  7. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    Great Article, Eating fresh food isnt that hard, most people are not too busy just too lazy and ignorant, hence why we have so many obesse people in western countries.

    Jamie Oliver's 15 minute meals are a sensational example of how easier it can be but fatties would rather spend 15 minutes going to the drive thru

    I cook my dinners for the week on sunday and then reheat when needed, it only takes an hour tops and if people are stating they dont have a spare hour in the week...your at the pub too much and/or your lying to yourself

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  8. The He Wolfe

    logged in via Twitter

    I think "slow food" is a great idea but it looks to be another potential exercise in absolutism. I am at a loss to explain why it isn't reasonable to enjoys slow food when we can, rather than all the time. I don't believe that this approach need be an "all or nothing" exercise, which seems to be the vibe being put forward by a number of the comments below. Isn't it better that someone does this occasionally rather than never? It probably is not practical to do it every day for most people. I think you can be appreciative of slow food without straying to elitism. In principle I believe an appreciation of what we are eating has to be a good thing; a good thing for our health and a good thing for our environment. More education into the types and sources of our nutrition can surely only lead us to better choices. Don't shame the fatties nor the socially disadvantaged just because they can't completely adopt an ideal that could be bordering on elitism if approached the wrong way

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  9. Tyson Adams

    Scientist and author

    Slow food? Cooking your own meals is slow?

    I like the idea of getting more connected with the people who grow the food, paying them directly, understanding what is involved in farming. We'd solve a lot of the issues surrounding agriculture if people did this, as the marketing middlemen would be removed and ideologues would be banished. Covering costs of production when fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides are more expensive, yet farm gate food price is lower, is just becoming ridiculous…

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    1. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      I believe "slow" food initially grew from an acronym of 'sustainable, local, organic' and grew to incorporate the idea of taking your time with choosing, preparing and enjoying your food.
      Cooking meals certainly doesn't have to be slow - many meals only take 15 minutes to prepare from fresh ingredients - especially when they include mainly vegetables.
      Sustainability is an ideal to aim for and all areas of life, including agriculture, can benefit from changing methods and habits to become more sustainable. Lowering transport costs even partially is certainly one way to decrease the carbon footprint of food, shopping locally is another. Farmers markets also aim to cut out the middlemen and bring consumer and producer back into a direct exchange to profit both - one gets fresher produce at a lower price, the other an increased profit margin.

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    2. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Thanks, Suzy.

      On the sustainability, the reason I don't like that term is that it is essentially meaningless. There is no method of food production that isn't degrading to the land. A classic example is something as simple as soil acidity from biomass removal. This requires liming. So you could argue that sustainability is about liming agricultural soils. But is liming really sustainable? Because that is an open system solution. A closed system could be sustainable, but that would also mean full…

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    3. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      Your logic about the sustainability can be applied to almost anything - every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
      The farmers markets you describe sound like extensive purely commercial ones. Our local one is rather smaller, it has local suppliers of honey, bread, vegetables and fruits in season plus a few other essentials such as seedlings, plants, soaps... It is held in our village hall and the stall holders do not pay a fee, instead we run a breakfast menu with our volunteers which creates a community atmosphere and brings people in and makes us a profit instead of fee collection. It seems to work, but this system has developed over the years, over rained out market days, busy ones and understanding the needs of our stall holders. As I said earlier, the farmers market is not just a commercial venture, but a community event and an opportunity for social exchange. By creating the setting for this exchange, we all benefit in more than just commercial ways.

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    4. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Yes, which is why "sustainable" is a weasel word and often misused, hence my problem with it.

      The farmers market you describe is one of the better ones. There two that we visit that are similar. The problem appears to be that with demand for this type of market, the more pressure there is to be like the larger chain stores. I think this is consumer habits, as they don't understand that fresh food has a very small window before it goes off or is out of season. It used to be that you ate what was in season, now we eat those foods year round. Consumers have to change a bit as well.

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    5. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Tyson Adams

      ...by extension everything can be turned into a 'weasel' word because it will always favour one side of the dialectic and disregard the other... I'm not sure looking at 'sustainability' in that way is very helpful.
      I agree with the issue you raise about variety and availability and this is in my opinion an education issue and can also be a distinguishing factor of a local market. For example, we serve our pancakes with 'seasonal' fruit and these change throughout the year from strawberries to successions…

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    6. Tyson Adams

      Scientist and author

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Which is a great thing to encourage. I really hate to see the way cold storage has been abused by the big chains.

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  10. Kerry-Ann Italiano

    logged in via Facebook

    an interesting article by Brian Dunning critiques the idea of local food as a sustainable practice.

    http://skeptoid.com/mobile/4162

    While i dont agree with the idea that the quest for local food is a 'boutique experience' for the weatlhy (a criticism of slow food also) because I believe the intentions behind both are noble and rooted in sustainability, he raises a valid point about food miles. He points out that food produced locally may not exist in ideal growing conditions and requires…

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