FOOD rocks: The Grown Up Movement… Returned to the Youth!

Though I have been to many Slow Food events in years past, there was a decidedly youthful edge to this year’s proceedings, and that is a welcome bit of irony. For a movement that is committed to preserving the traditions of the past, this was a year in which I found myself embracing the guidance and energy of youth – youth that looks to my generation and the generations before me for guidance, inspiration, and tradition. My three-day wanderings at this year’s event was marked by enthusiastic and determined young people from all over the world at the Agnelli auditorium, in the Lingotto Congress Center. “EAT the future you want,” was the slogan greeting the participants of the Slow Food Youth Network who slowly gathered to the vast amphitheater, long after the meeting was scheduled to start.


But simply arriving at the event was its own, Slow challenge. Although I have been to previous fairs inLingotto – the huge former Fiat plant turned exhibition and conference center, shopping mall, and hotel— the enormous area covered by the stands and events of the 2012 joint Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre fair proved a labyrinth. I started to despair as smiling young hosts sent me first to the Oval, then to the wrong side of the very long building that housed the auditorium. After circling the grounds in vain for about thirty minutes, I angrily confronted yet another embarrassed host who had no idea where the Agnelli auditorium was. By then I was joined by several young men and women looking for the same hall. ‘Chill out,” a tall French guy reprimanded me, “we will find it eventually…” And indeed we located the hall and had plenty of time to chat with friends before the proceedings began. After all this was a Slow event for visitors who came here to enjoy glorious food from the four corners of the planet, learn more from each-others’ traditions, get passionate, and spread the word about “good, clean and fair food!”

The meeting’s host, Janno Lanjouw, is the coordinator of the Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN), and a leading member of the very active Dutch chapter. After a brief introduction, he called participants from Australia, India, Canada, Holland, Germany, Italy etc., to speak about the actions they organized in order to inform and inspire their communities, to bring about changes in the field of food production and consumption. We learned about a successful Food Film festival in Amsterdam, a “raw milk” campaign in Ireland, forming a bike-food tour in Sydney. We heard from the group who managed to keep developers off the coast of Santa Catarina, in Brazil, where local fishermen collect clams among the mangroves, and were told about the creation of a ‘Millet Network’ that preserved the ancient village millet tradition in the north-east of India.


Pavlos Georgiadis – here with Slow Food’s creator Carlo Petrini – is the Greek coordinator of SFYN. Last summer Georgiadis produced a documentary about ‘Farming on Crisis’ which competed with 20 other short docs at the Arc Light Cinemas International Festival, in Hollywood, and won the prestigious documentary award!

Speaking to his enthusiastic young disciples, Carlo Petrini introduced the idea of intergeneralita(intergenerational connection). He said that the movement he created 26 years ago now depends on them, “the Light Brigade that would break the barriers.” He urged the young to learn and record the knowledge of the elders before it gets lost in the plague of global homogenization. With the diverse agricultural and food traditions of our ancestors in the 98 participating countries, the movement can enrich world culture and move forward, he said.

Corby Kummer, one of the most fervent and vocal advocates of Slow Food in the US, author of The Pleasures of Slow Food: Celebrating Authentic Traditions, Flavors, and Recipes, referred to the American paradox of both malnutrition and obesity that exists in his country and expanded on Petrini’s idea: “older people are our own heirloom seeds,” he said. He reminded the audience that Riso Amaro (Bitter Rice), the 1949 epic film that described the strife of the rice workers in the Po valley of Piedmont, could well have been the story of some participants’ grandparents, as it dealt with the not so distant past in this very area, around Torino!

At the end of the meeting young men and women from various countries took their turn on the microphone and fervently described their ideas for immediate action, asking the more experienced activists for help and soliciting volunteers in diverse fields in order to accomplish their goals. Climbing the auditorium stairs to get to the main exhibition halls I felt invigorated, filled with hope. I really agree with Sarah Mooney, founding coordinator of the Youth Network , that “young people are not going to allow the future of food to be dictated to them by massive corporations and investors with no investment in quality or equality.”


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