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Lauren Howe ’13: Slow Food Extraordinaire

As co-founder and co-leader of Hamilton’s Slow Food, Lauren Howe ’13 is doing everything in her power to advocate this organization and its beliefs. This summer she presented a paper she co-authored with Morgan Osborn ’14 and Katrina Keay ’14 at the Canadian Association for Food Studies (CAFS) 2012 Conference on May 26. They wrote the paper, “Let’s Dig In! Adirondack Food Culture Through the Ages,” for Professor Robin Kinnel’s Adirondack seminar (ES 220 Culture and Natural History of the Adirondacks). The CAFS 2012 Conference is hosted in conjunction with the 2012 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences and was held at Wilfred Laurier University and University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario. More than 6,000 people were registered for the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences and 185 were registered for the CAFS conference. Howe was one of the few undergraduates in attendance among mostly of master’s and Ph.D. students and professionals in the field of food studies. 

How did you know you wanted to go into Slow Food?

My interest in Slow Food ideals, which are good, clean, and fair, have developed over time. I am an Environmental Studies major, so on some level I’ve always been concerned with the state of the natural world. My interest in food, however, started in high school when I volunteered at the Northampton Survival Center, an emergency food pantry. This volunteer experience was crucial in that it exposed me to issues of poverty, social justice, and food insecurity right in my own community. Over time, I felt deeply committed to the NSC’s clients and its mission to promote local food security. After graduating high school, I wasn’t ready to give it up and fortunately, I received a grant from Hamilton’s Diversity and Social Justice Project for the summer of 2010, which allowed me to intern there full-time, helping the most vulnerable members of society by making healthy food more accessible.

Furthermore during my freshman year, I enrolled in Environmental Ethics with Professor Doran. This was my first experience interacting with food on an academic level, and I was captivated. I knew I wanted to explore topics such as factory farming, industrial agriculture, and global hunger further, so during spring of my sophomore year, I co-founded Slow Food Hamilton College. Since then, I have served as co-leader. I hoped to educate and involve the college community on food issues that support Slow Food’s slogan: “good, clean, and fair” (food that is tasty and healthy, environmentally-sound, and fair in terms of workers’ rights and universal access). Today SFHC includes over 150 students and several faculty members. So essentially, when I learned of Slow Food and realized it combined two of my deepest passions: the natural environment and social justice, founding SFHC just made sense.

What would you say are some of your strongest beliefs about Slow Food?

So in case you don’t know, Slow Food is an international organization that started in Italy in 1986 in direct opposition to fast food. Since then, it has evolved to include chapters all over the world (national, region, and even college campus) and continues to promote “good, clean, and fair” food. In terms of my own views, I believe that food is a vehicle for social change – that is, that we can use food (e.g. the act of growing, preparing, serving, and eating) as a means for creating a better society and a better world. I think Slow Food is a powerful concept and network that has the ability to unite people from all walks of life simply because everyone needs food to survive, thus everyone can participate in the movement in some unique way (whether it be as a farmer, economist, stay at home mom, chef or student). Moreover, Slow Food has the capacity to promote environmental welfare, social justice, human/animal health, as well as community and tradition.

What do you find most challenging about working for Slow Food?

My work with Slow Food and its values is challenging in that it is something I have been involved in on so many levels: as a personal and extracurricular interest, academic endeavor, and likely future career. Therefore, it can be sometimes difficult to distinguish between these different parts of my life, which can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed. Despite the stress, however, I know I will continue to promote Slow Food values because they’re worth it for their potential to create global change.

What do you hope to do after college?

Ultimately, I plan to pursue either a master’s degree or PhD in environmental studies focused on food systems. I’ve spent semesters studying food issues and traveled across national borders to attend food conferences, but before graduate school, I yearn to get my hands dirty – literally – to learn how to farm sustainably and cook traditionally. And while food is something that every human needs to survive, my relationship with this life-giving substance has become far more than just a thrice a day routine. It has evolved into an academic interest and life passion, laying the foundations of my future.

What else can you tell readers about yourself and Slow Food?

I’m getting super excited to go to Italy at the end of October! I was both shocked and ecstatic when I received an email last spring explaining that I was chosen to serve as a U.S. Delegate to this year’s International Slow Food Congress Terra Madre in Turin, Italy. As one of four delegates representing New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, I will attend this incredible five-day event, which will attract roughly 200,000 people from 130 countries. Terra Madre aims to strengthen local food systems, economies, and cultures and as a delegate, I will sit in on Slow Food Congress sessions and vote on policy documents. I am most eager to engage in the ongoing international dialogue surrounding sustainable food, as I want to converse with farmers, economists, and chefs from Africa, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. I believe the personal connections, practical knowledge, and emerging theories to be gained from Terra Madre will be instrumental and inspirational for my future work at both the local and international level.

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