With white lasagna, apple crisp and pumpkin ginger soup, the student group Farm to Cornell unveiled what resembled a Thanksgiving feast at their Slow Food Potluck on Nov. 15. Rolling dough, stirring cider and dicing pumpkin, Farm to Cornell’s members spent the previous evening preparing for the event by embracing the Slow Food philosophy.
Founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy during the 1980s in response to the advent of fast food, the International Slow Food movement aims to revive the relationship people have with their food, its origins, its taste and its effect on the world, according to the group’s website.
Co-president Catherine Greeley, who is graduating in December, explained, “Farm to Cornell is focused on bringing local food to Cornell and educating the community.”
About 40 people from different clubs attended and together exchanged their experiences and thoughts on slow food while enjoying home cooked food. Along providing the venue for friendly conversation, this was an opportunity for clubs that share similar interests and rarely interact to gather.
Although some people were drawn by the opportunity to dine with likeminded individuals and others were brought by friends, some attendees understood the concept of slow food from experience. Molly Clauhs ’10 recently completed a semester in Ballymaloe Cookery School. “I think it’s just about helping your neighbors and keeping your food dollars in the community,” she said.
While the Slow Food Movement is better recognized in Europe, it is still gaining momentum in the U.S. At Cornell, several student organizations are concerned with spreading awareness regarding slow and local foods and increasing their availability on campus.
Although the dining system has managed to increase the amount of local food available, some hurdles still present complex problems. Ithaca’s growing season is short. Without mechanisms to extend it or improve food processing, it will be difficult to sustain the student body on local food. Financially, the biggest problem involves the current Farm Bill, which has designed a market in which purchasing non-local industrialized food is less expensive. This poses a problem when buying food in bulk and on a budget as Cornell dining must.
Even with such limitations, Cornell is working to continually increase the abundance of local foods. Initiatives include connecting and coordinating many small farmers to accumulate the amount of food needed to sustain the school’s population. Cornell dining’s contract with Maines Paper & Food Services, Inc. expires in summer 2012, which presents an opportunity to review sustainability guidelines under the new contract.
Some clubs hope to indirectly promote local and slow foods throughout Cornell. Using revenue from their local foods calendar, which features recipes and artwork from Cornell staff, dining chefs and students, as well as the local community, Farm to Cornell hopes to award a Local Food Grant. The grant will award a student or community member with funding to bring local food education to Ithaca. The club is also helping to organize a Food Summit with the other Ivies in February.