Students Advocating for Healthier Food and Farms

by Josh Viertel, President, Slow Food USA®

(This article appears in the April, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

We are what we eat. Human beings are made of food. Yet we rarely stop to appreciate where our food comes from, how it was grown or why we’re putting it into our bodies. And if we do ask those questions, we often find it difficult to figure out how our food choices affect our health, our impact on those who grow our food, our environment and how much we enjoy our daily lives.

But there’s a movement afoot to change all of that. There’s a vision being formed of a world where everyone has healthy food and every farm is a healthy business. Slow Food USA is a non-profit organization working within that movement. We help everyday people connect with each other and use the power of their community to create a healthier local food system.

You can join the movement by becoming a member of Slow Food USA. Our network has more than 150,000 members and supporters across the country, organized into 225 volunteer-led chapters. Together, those chapters are working to transform food and farm policy, industry practices and consumer demand to ensure equity, sustainability and pleasure in the food we eat.

This is a big task, obviously. Success is going to take passion, dedication and collaboration on the part of millions of citizens who all believe in change. And many of the citizens leading the way – no surprise – are college students.

Our Slow Food on Campus program has grown significantly over the last few years. It now includes chapters in more than 35 universities and colleges nation-wide. Members represent a cross-section of young people who are passionate about food system and justice issues and whose expertise spans environmental and social causes. Many of these chapters, like those at the University of New Hampshire, University of Rhode Island, University of California-San Diego, Green Mountain College, Oberlin College or Northern Arizona University have also signed on to support the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. They are at the forefront of advocating for change, both locally and nationally.

Last fall, campus chapters engaged in a series of initiatives to help drive awareness about good, clean and fair food, including: partnering with on their day of action to support new climate change policy; working in conjunction with the Student/Farmworker Alliance to help end modern day slavery in the fields; and, supporting the efforts to help schools serve healthier food through Slow Food USA’s Time for Lunch campaign.

This spring that work continued as students created events around Valentine’s Day to support Fair Trade chocolate with United Students for Fair Trade, and built up their understanding of where their food comes from by visiting local farms and talking to sustainable farmers about their challenges and opportunities.

For more information on starting a Slow Food chapter on your campus, send an email to [email protected] or go to