Slow Food’s motto is “good, clean, and fair food for all.” I became involved with Slow Food for those last two words, for all.
Danny wasn’t able to work. I helped him budget his social security check, but most of that went toward rent. He relied almost exclusively on SNAP, the supplemental nutrition assistance program, formerly called food stamps. Danny’s various medical issues required him to eat healthily. When he ate better, he could manage many of the behaviors that sometimes prevented him from fully participating in society. At the beginning of the month it was easy, but not so at the end of the month when Danny’s SNAP dollars ran low.
Often, he was limited to less expensive but overly processed foods. It was cheap and filling, but not what he was supposed to eat. I noticed that Danny didn’t have as many good days at the end of the month. I realized that these issues stemmed from his inability to get enough food that was good for him. Danny wasn’t homeless, and he wasn’t hungry in the way most people think of hunger. Danny was food insecure, and it was the first time that I had seen the impact of food insecurity. I realized that if poor nutrition was affecting Danny this way, it was affecting other people too.
Since then, I dedicated my time and energy to learning everything I can about food systems, ag policy, and hunger in America. I joined Americorps to teach cooking, gardening, and nutrition lessons to kids in low income elementary schools. I went back to college and graduated with a degree focused on food systems and food policy.
One of the projects I’ve helped plan in the last few years was a series of cooking classes designed for teenagers who were about to age out of the foster system. My team of Americorps members wanted to help them to learn a few basic techniques as they transitioned to independent living. When we thought about who we wanted as volunteer chefs, it was the local Slow Food chapter who showed up. The Slow Food members I met were people who were passionate about food, but also passionate about making sure the teenagers had a positive experience in the kitchen. After I saw their commitment to seeking good food for the community, I was inspired. Less than a year later, I was serving on the board of that chapter.
Last year, I moved to Vermont to continue learning about food and community.
Currently, I am serving a second year in Americorps, this time as a VISTA. I work for the Vermont Foodbank, with their 3SquaresVT Outreach team, which is Vermont’s version of SNAP (food stamp program). I am committed to making sure that more low income Vermonters have access to good food. I work one on one with seniors, families, veterans, students, and folks experiencing homelessness to connect them with SNAP and other resources to address and alleviate symptoms of poverty.
This year, I am excited to attend Terra Madre again. I am grateful to have attended in 2014, where learned all about Slow Food Vermont. I hope to learn more from other professionals addressing the issue of hunger within the food movement. I am looking forward to joining the rest of Vermont Slow Food Youth in connecting with other Vermonters, other young people from across the globe, and anyone with whom I share the common language of food.