Slow Food is an international movement founded by Italian activists in the 1980s. It homed in on locality and preserving regional traditions, good food and a slower pace of life. The idea behind the movement can be distilled to ”linking the pleasure of food with a commitment to the community and the environment.” But what exactly does it mean? I turn to Hannah James, co-chair of Slow Food Ludlow Marches, for answers about what the Slow Food movement means for the typical consumer here in Ludlow, particularly in our economically challenging times.
1. Hannah, in brief, I know the Slow Food Ludlow Marches membership has a significant number locally – the biggest outside of London. Can you tell us what and who comprises Slow Food Ludlow Marches?As you say, Slow Food Ludlow Marches is the largest group outside London – a testament to the number of people in the area who are interested in food, who care where it comes from, and how it’s produced. Our membership is broad – from businesses to personal memberships, but all have the same aim – to support small producers and work with Slow Food to increase awareness of the movement’s aims.
2. Can you tell us why the average consumer should care about Slow Food? What hot topics are you supporting now?The ethos of Slow Food is primarily food should be good, clean and fair – these are broad terms but support the idea that food production should be good for everyone involved, from farmer to consumer – including the environment. As a local group, we are focussing on education and have recently recruited a new Education Officer to our committee, as well as looking at food waste issues by supporting the work of local charities such as Hands Together Ludlow.
3. Let’s break it down a bit, ”supporters are to link the pleasure of food with a commitment to the community and the environment” — a very tall order, so what does that look like for Slow Food Ludlow Marches?We work with local producers and businesses to bring the Slow Food ethos to life through workshops, tutored tastings, themed dinners, or visits. All the work we do offers the chance to link food and drink producers with members of the public, a chance for one to engage with the other and learn more about why they do what they do.
4. The Slow Food movement suggests good food but does that mean more expensive, or is that an unfair charge? What compromises do we, as average consumers, have to make if we are to make more efforts to do our bit and buy in season, more locally, more sustainably?Food produced ethically and with care is often more expensive; yes – I can’t pretend it isn’t, but often it’s better value. Add in the benefit of reduced food miles and often less plastic packaging, and you are making a big step towards having a more positive impact. Visit Ludlow’s brilliant Farmers Market, for example. Buying seasonally often means it’s the same or a better price than a supermarket. Of course, most people work during the day, and shopping at the Farmers Market isn’t always realistic – shopping locally and supporting independent shops often takes a bit more effort, but it pays off.
5. The reality is that many people are suffering economic hardship, and there are predictions that there could be a recession. When it comes to times like these, people want to be able to put affordable food on the table. What can Slow Food Ludlow Marches say to this?There’s no denying the cost of living crisis has hit – and we are still in the early stages; things are already challenging for many people. Slow Food Ludlow Marches will continue its work with local groups, such as the Food Bank, Hands Together Ludlow and the Ludlow Food Network. We support in many ways – from education, spreading awareness of issues around food and working with groups across our local community to help in the best ways we can.
6. One of the appealing things about Slow Food is the idea of getting to know what is available here locally. Can you tell people what they can find? There isn’t a giant billboard in the market square saying these are the fruits and vegetables in season (although I wish it were!), so how can people educate themselves and their kids about what is available locally?Visit your local market, Farmers Market and independent shops where possible – people lead busy working lives, so it’s not always practical, of course, but start visiting independent shops and markets when you can. You’ll soon get to spot the seasonal produce, get to know the growers or shopkeepers, engage with them and chat about what’s going to be in soon.
7. The Food Festival has paired up with Slow Food Ludlow Marches, and it will have a stage; what can people expect?Slow Food Ludlow Marches and Ludlow Food Festival have worked together for many years, and we’re developing that relationship further this year. We have a brand new Slow Food Stage at the Festival this year (it takes place 10-11 September) – it’ll feature free talks from authors, producers and food writers. Plus, the head of Slow Food UK, Shane Holland, will be with us hosting for both days – a chance to learn more about Slow Food and why it is so important. There will also be free pop-up Meet the Producer sessions alongside the very popular Taste Workshops and a free trial for children – so many different ways to experience the values of Slow Food.
MORE INFORMATIONLudlow Food Festival: 9-11 September 2022, tickets available now via www.ludlowfoodfestival.co.uk To join or learn more about Slow Food Ludlow Marches find them at www.slowfoodludlow.org.uk
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