Slow Food is a grassroots organization founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy in 1986. It has since spread worldwide. Promoted as an alternative to fast food, it strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds, and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem. It was the first established part of the broader slow movement. Its goals of sustainable foods and promotion of local small businesses are paralleled by a political agenda directed against globalization of agricultural products.
Slow Food began in Italy with the founding of its forerunner organisation, Arcigola, in 1986 to resist the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome. In 1989, the founding manifesto of the international Slow Food movement was signed in Paris, France by delegates from 15 countries.
At its heart is the aim to promote local foods and traditional gastronomy and food production. Conversely this means an opposition to fast food, industrial food production and globalisation.
The Slow Food organisation has expanded to include over 100,000 members with branches in over 150 countries. Over 1,300 local convivia chapters exist. 360 convivia in Italy—to which the name condotta (singular) / condotte (plural) applies—are composed of 35,000 members, along with 450 other regional chapters around the world. The organisational structure is decentralised: each convivium has a leader who is responsible for promoting local artisans, local farmers, and local flavors through regional events such as Taste Workshops, wine tastings, and farmers’ markets.
Offices have been opened in Switzerland (1995), Germany (1998), New York City (2000), France (2003), Japan (2005), the United Kingdom, and Chile. Global headquarters are located in Bra, near Turin, Italy. Numerous publications are put out by the organisation, in several languages around the world. Recent efforts at publicity include the world’s largest food and wine fair, the Salone del Gusto in Turin, a biennial cheese fair in Bra called Cheese, the Genoan fish festival called SlowFish, and Turin’s Terra Madre (“Mother Earth”) world meeting of food communities.
In 2004, Slow Food opened a University of Gastronomic Sciences at Pollenzo, in Piedmont, and Colorno, in Emilia-Romagna, Italy. The Colorno branch has since been closed and transferred to Polenzo as well. Carlo Petrini and Massimo Montanari are the leading figures in the creation of the university, whose goal is to promote awareness of good food and nutrition.
The Ark of Taste is a catalogue of foods at risk of disappearing that are a part of the cultures and traditions of the entire world. www.slowfoodfoundation.org/ark
The Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity coordinates Slow Food projects that preserve food and agricultural biodiversity: the gardens in Africa, the Ark of Taste (a catalogue of endangered traditional foods), the Presidia (projects sustaining small scale producers to save traditional products), the Earth Markets (farmers’ markets) and the Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance (a network of chefs using and promoting local products).