Slow Food – a movement with respect to tradition


Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization, founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us.

Since its beginnings, Slow Food has grown into a global movement involving millions of people in over 160 countries, working to ensure everyone has access to good, clean and fair food.

Slow Food believes food is tied to many other aspects of life, including culture, politics, agriculture and the environment. Through our food choices we can collectively influence how food is cultivated, produced and distributed, and as a result bring about great change.

Slow Food envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet.

Their approach is based on a concept of food that is defined by three interconnected principles:good, clean and fair.

  • GOOD: quality, flavorsome and healthy food
  • CLEAN: production that does not harm the environment
  • FAIR: accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for producers

Twenty-three years after it began, Slow Food is holding its biennial international get-together in Turin, Italy. But what is the legacy of this movement, which was founded as the antithesis to fast food?

“Slow Food has given a dignity to the rural world,” says Mario Gala, a co-ordinator for a group of sheep farmers in Atla Langa, in Cuneo province, Italy.

“But it has also made me feel part of a community.”

There are fewer than 2,500 Langhe breed sheep left in the Langhe Cuneesi, and their milk is used to make tuma d’fé – a small round traditional cheese made with raw milk for centuries in the area.

The cheese is eaten after 10-15 days, but traditionally also preserved in glass jars to be eaten in winter. But with sheep farming dwindling, the cheese has been at risk of dying out.

The farmers are now a “presidium”, their milk and cheese highlighted for protection and saving by Slow Food.

All over the world, in fields, orchards, on farms, in boats, kitchens, small breweries and in vineyards, small-scale food harvesters and producers have bought in to Slow Food’s vision of good, clean and fair food for all.

It is now a highly-complex organisation, with many strands carrying out a lot of different functions.

But everything it does aims “to have restored cultural dignity to food and those that produce and cook it”, says Serena Milano, general secretary of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, based in Florence, Italy.

Catherine Gazzoli, the chief executive of Slow Food UK, says Slow Food’s greatest legacy has to be the development of “the idea that there is an alternative to fast food, and progress doesn’t mean bigger, faster and global when it comes to food production and eating”.

Woman holding broccola in CampagniaSchemes are set up to help rural communities save and protect traditional production methods

Slow Food began when its founder, Carlo Petrini, set it up to try and halt the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in one of Rome’s Piazza di Spagna.

That particular quest was unsuccessful, but he came up with a manifesto and since then the non-profit member-supported association has spread to become a network of 100,000 members in 153 countries.

Slow Food has 1,300 local chapters in its members network which develop activities, projects and events at a local, regional and global level.

There are 10,000 small producers involved in 400 “presidia” projects in 50 countries – designed to protect food biodiversity and save products at risk of extinction in rural areas.

There is an “Ark of Taste” list, which catalogues 1,000 unique “forgotten foods” from these countries that are threatened by industrial standardisation and that it hopes to save.

It also has a separate network called Terra Madre which aims to preserve, encourage, and support sustainable food production methods around the world.