This week’s debate: is Slow Foods good for Guilford?

Kate Gibson:

Fast food is gross.

Trust me. I’ve worked for McHeartDisease — twice — so I know that there are no true benefits to frozen patties and bagged lettuce from halfway across the world. Slow food and everything that it stands for — good, clean and fair foodstuffs — is an excellent concept and one that I fully endorse.

But this “new” emergence of the “movement” on campus via the Slow Foods club isn’t new at all. Guilford has been practicing the principles behind the Slow Foods movement for quite some time and we brag about it to anyone who will listen. We just haven’t had a hip label for this concept until now.

Local, seasonal vegetables are always close by at the Guilford farm. We have fields and a greenhouse dedicated to growing veggies locally, and Meriwether Godsey purchases these vegetables to help feed our student population. We even have a community garden with open plots where community members can grow their own organic munchies.

If you look around the caf on any given day, you’ll see “local” labels on a handful of dishes. The kind folks at Meriwether Godsey take care to buy local meats, fruits, grains and vegetables for our meals when- and wherever they can.

The Greenleaf’s wares are almost entirely local and fair trade, from the coffee supplier in Durham to the baked goods from Spring Garden Bakery. The coffee shop also houses the Guilford Veggie Co-op, where students can purchase seasonal veggies grown in the Greensboro area.

We tell all of these things to our prospective students on tours and in information pamphlets, and we remind them in their First Year Experience classes. We’re proud of our accomplishments and we have every right to be. Our actions show that we, as an institution and as individuals, are committed to being responsible for the environmental and economic impacts we have on this earth and its people.

So why do we need a shiny new label for something that we already do?

I can understand the desire to further promote the Slow Foods ideals, but we already have all of these preexisting initiatives with strikingly similar goals to the Slow Foods Movement. I don’t understand creating a club to promote a concept that the college is already so thoroughly involved in.

Instead of creating this redundant entity, individuals interested in local, organic and fair foods can use their manpower to support one of the existing green initiatives. Help out at the farm, promote the community garden or find new ways that the Greenleaf can become more environmentally friendly.

Then there’s the money issue.

Budget cuts are coming, and student organizations will undoubtedly feel the squeeze, too. Now isn’t the time to create redundant organizations because, come next year, there might not be enough funds to go around. If we preemptively consolidate where appropriate, hopefully we won’t find ourselves spread too thin.

Slow Foods has taken the first step toward consolidation; the club was formed through a merger of the Food Justice Network and Forevergreen. I think that further amalgamation is possible.

If working for an existing cause does not provide enough autonomy for the members of Slow Foods, then the concept would be better served as a sub-committee under an existing club. I hear the members of Cooking Club are friendly, and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind some extra company.

Plus, more members under one organization equals more student participation, a bigger voice on campus and a better chance at getting a sustainable budget from Senate, which will certainly come in handy for the future.

In short, bringing Slow Foods to Guilford is like bringing a bag of ice to the tundra — entirely superfluous. We’ve already got it, and it’s integrated into our way of life. The only thing that’s different is the brand name.

Laurie Elseroad:

There are two things we can agree on: one, Guilford is a fast-paced environment full of perpetual readings and churned-out research papers; and two, food is a main drive for Guilford students. Think about everything that centers around food here. Clubs entice new members with promises of snacks, and event planners interest potential guests by offering Meriwether Godsey catering. Study breaks always promise healthy (and some not-so-healthy) snacks and pizza parties are ubiquitous.

It may seem outrageous that we Guilford students fall for the same promises every time, but it actually makes perfect sense. Food is a common denominator among us all.  We need it for survival, and because we are fortunate enough to have an ample amount at our fingertips, food has become the centerpiece of our social gatherings. However, not everyone is as fortunate as we. In fact, our fast-paced lifestyles exacerbate this food gap.

People are forced by lack of resources to eat unhealthy food, and farmers risk their lives every day in the name of “convenience.” This is all hidden from consumers, living miles away, across state lines from where their food is produced. The injustice to the farmers is hidden behind factory farm walls, and the injustice of insufficient access to healthy food is tucked away in food deserts. We have lost a connection with the land. We have lost a connection with the entity that keeps us alive: our food. This issue can no longer be ignored. That is why Slow Food at Guilford, a new club combining the former Forevergreen and Food Justice Network, has formed a community around a renewed way of eating and producing food.

This student organization, along with staff from Meriwether Godsey, brings awareness of the injustice caused by the current food system directly to Guilford. The club empowers students to take part in making food healthy and enjoyable for everyone. Club meetings are opportunities for anyone in the Guilford community to take an hour out of their busy lives and slow down while celebrating ethically produced and delicious food. These meetings also serve as a chance to plan for future events meant to educate the community in creative ways. So far, these events include a community bike trip to a local farm, Local Meat Week in the cafeteria and another opportunity to celebrate food together with dinner at the Guilford College farm.

Differing from its predecessors, Slow Food at Guilford is connected to a national movement to create systematic change. The student organization is considered a chapter of Slow Food USA, which supports “good, clean, and fair food,” and “which links the pleasure of food with a commitment to the community and the environment.” Right there, I see at least half of the Quaker testimonies, on which Guilford is founded, represented.  So, within our fast-paced, food-loving college lives, why not slow down together and take a minute or an hour to at least learn about where our food comes from and what we can do to help?  As consumers, we can create change.