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Pro Food: Slow Food With an Entrepreneurial Twist

Rob Smart

With my recent introduction of the term “Pro Food” and a definition of its core principles, several readers have questioned how Pro Food differs from Slow Food. Rather than try to answer this question on my own, as I am only somewhat familiar with Slow Food, I am opening it up to others to help decide.

Pro Food is primarily focused on driving entrepreneurial interest in solving the complex food system challenges we face. By attracting such talent and energy to sustainable food, from farming through retail to home cooking, it is my belief that the money will follow to support their efforts (new post coming on this subject).

Pro Food is not about debating the current problems by taking one side or the other. There is plenty of that already happening, and is my belief that the valuable time and energy being spent in such debates can be put to far better use if it is directed toward finding innovative solutions to our food problems.

For 20 years, Slow Food has been successful in reestablishing links between food and terroir. The most successful event at each Terra Madre convention in Bra, Italy, the birthplace of the movement, has always been Salone del Gusto. This event features local foods from around the globe, prepared and presented by the artisans themselves. In Europe, where the movement was born, the emphasis has been on reviving the culinary expression of local cultures.

When Slow Food crossed the pond to America it took some time to find its feet as our unique food cultures have endured decades of pressure to homogenize, thanks in large part to the dominant industrial food system. Every region has its specific culinary traditions, dating back in some cases to before the founding of the nation. In addition, our immigrant newcomers brought their respective food traditions with them, but soon found the need to adapt to locally available food stuffs.

Slow Food USA Vision: Food is a common language and a universal right. Slow Food USA envisions a world in which all people can eat food that is good for them, good for the people who grow it and good for the planet.

Slow Food USA Mission: To create dramatic and lasting change in the food system. We reconnect Americans with the people, traditions, plants, animals, fertile soils and waters that produce our food. We work to inspire a transformation in food policy, production practices and market forces so that they ensure equity, sustainability and pleasure in the food we eat.

Slow Food USA recently started addressing food policy issues in earnest, sparked by Slow Food Nation, its first national convention held last fall in San Francisco. Policy-making efforts have been spearheaded by other organizations, working just as diligently to remake our food system, including Food Democracy Now!, Roots of Change (specific to California), Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), and Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), to name a few.

Pro Food stands apart in its efforts to revitalize the entrepreneurial side of the American food system, with the express purpose of re-establishing the link between food and source, bringing together eaters and farmers in new, innovative ways. This specific focus will make it possible to re-inject business sense into the sustainable production, distribution, preparation, and consumption of local foods with entrepreneurial savvy, adapted to each level of the entire chain.

Further information on Pro Food and Slow Food:

• Huffington Post: Sustainable Food Ripe for Entrepreneurs to Drive Forward
• Huffington Post: Closing the Farm to Plate Knowledge Gap
• Slow Food USA: Good, Clean and Fair
• Slow Food USA: From Plate to Planet
• Slow Food International: What We Do

I look forward to your comments regarding these two important efforts dedicated to solving our food system problems, in what I believe are unique and complementary ways.

Do you agree?

Rob Smart is a food entrepreneur focusing on regional food systems and consumer retail experiences. He blogs on alternative food systems at Every Kitchen Table and micro-blogs on Twitter as Jambutter.

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