Pro Food: Slow Food with Entrepreneurial Twist

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 reestablishing 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:

• Every Kitchen Table: Pro Food Is…
• Every Kitchen Table: 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?

Every Kitchen Table is supporter of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays

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11 responses to “Pro Food: Slow Food with Entrepreneurial Twist

  1. I think that the only issue I have with the term or wording of “Pro Food” is that when I see it, I automatically think that “Pro” is short for “professional” – so I think of chefs or restaurants. I assume that that is an element of what you are talking about, but my reading is that the core of what you are doing is “pro” meaning “FOR” food, farmers and eaters.

    My ‘gut’ reaction (sorry for the pun).

    • Kim: Thanks for taking the time to comment, and you make a great point regarding “pro” being like “professional”. In some ways Pro Food is about professionalism in entrepreneurial and business terms, since one thing sustainable food needs is profitable models for companies throughout the food value chain.

  2. nestandsparkle

    As a cook, a food consumer and an eater with a growing awareness of where my food comes from, I really appreciate all the thought and effort going into both the slow food and pro food movements.

    Tapping into entrepreneurial spirit and creating a new space in the economy for pro food solutions is a compelling vision. I also like what you say about the importance of communication and building connections to mainstream culture. We’re in an important moment now. Farmer’s markets are trendy. Alice Waters is on 60 minutes. There are a million food bloggers and micro bloggers driving chatter about new (old) ways of eating, growing and making food. People are waking up to the fact that good food tastes better and they appreciate the lifestyle rewards. Continual communications and culture building work, bridging the divide between the North American lifestyle centered around cheap and easy food with more broad recognition about the values of Slow Food and Pro Food will allow mainstream consumers to forge new habits and demand something better from their food.

    Brands all over the world are waking up to the reality of engaged consumers. The smart ones are listening and responding. The Hellman’s mayo campaign around ‘Real Food’ is an interesting example that has indicators of a positive shift. I’m sure they are still in the depths of the industrial food system, but to see a major company staking out brand territory in the local food space is an exciting thing. If it resonates with consumers, they will be required to live up to their brand promise and shift the way they make and market food products (I hope?!).

    Sorry for the long comment. Keep up the great work!

    • Erica: Please feel free to add your “long comments” anytime on Every Kitchen Table. I really liked reading about your perspective on Pro and Slow Foods. And thanks for encouraging me and others to keep up the great (and important) work being done. Cheers!

  3. It seems to me like Pro Food’s goal is to make Slow Food accessible to every day people. A major criticism of the slow food movement is that it’s elitist. I can argue all day that it isn’t, that it’s just a return to the way food used to be. But that doesn’t matter to most people when they experience the sticker shock associated with organic and local foods.

    My family buys organic & local whenever possible, and we do it on a very frugal budget (less than the federal food allotment guidelines for a family of my size). So, I know it’s possible.

    But it’s WORK. I have to hunt down farmers, farm stands, and the best deals. I have to buy meats, vegetables, and fruits in bulk and practice the art of “putting them up” for the off-seasons. I have to prepare my own convenience foods.

    Pro food sounds like it would facilitate making this food more accessible. Instead of having to hunt down farmers, I could access them in my local market. And food prices might be more expensive than the cheapest industrialized foods, but they’d probably be less than your typical organic fare today.

    Obviously, I’m Pro Food, as I think these are noble goals.

    Cheers & thanks for joining in the Fight Back Friday fun!

    ~KristenM
    (AKA FoodRenegade)

    • Kristen: Thanks for taking the time on what I hope is a busy-as-usual Fight Back Friday for you. It is such a great forum bringing many diverse ideas together in one place.

      Your first hand experience in living Slow Food is heartening and instructive. Our families are similarly wired, which makes it possible to find ways to make it work, but I know we are the exception. For most households, they need help. They need new channels, better channels, to help them reengage in good, healthy food, which often will need to be prepped and/or cooked at home. Awakening people’s “cooking instinct” must be one of the goals of Slow Food and Pro Food.

      I hope Pro Food does exactly what you suggest: Facilitates making food more accessible.

      Cheers,

      Rob

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  5. I like the term ProFood precisely because it does make me think of “professional”–and I think that farmers who grow food sustainably ought to be though of as professionals.

    Too, thinking of food preparation (both in restaurants and at home) as a skill goes as long way in promoting what has been considered housewife drudgery into something with a bit more prestige.

    –Rebecca

    • Rebecca: Thanks for your thoughts on Pro Food and cooking, two things we completely agree on. We must create new ways for Americans to (re)experience food, starting with sustainable farmers, then moving into kitchens everywhere, before landing on plates and being enjoyed with family, friends and community. How could increasing numbers of people NOT want that?

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  7. I had the same confusion, that PRO meant professional. Naming things is tricky.

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