Sunday, February 28, 2021
Feb. 28, 2021

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Food & Drink: Slow Food Southwest Washington grows

Organization strives to advance locally produced food for all

5 Photos
Special food and drink for the Slow Food Southwest Washington annual meeting.
Special food and drink for the Slow Food Southwest Washington annual meeting. (Rachel Pinsky for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Slow Food Southwest Washington is growing and evolving, as evidenced by its annual meeting a couple weeks ago at Little Conejo in downtown Vancouver.

The chapter is part of an international movement that started in 1986 in Italy when Carlo Petrini protested the opening of a McDonald’s by the Spanish Steps in Rome. The movement seeks “good, clean and fair food for all,” as its slogan states.

The Southwest Washington chapter started in 2012. Its mission is to inspire people to enjoy, grow and share wholesome food.

Little Conejo provided the space and staff on a Monday night (when the restaurant is normally closed) for the gathering of Slow Food Southwest board members, chefs, farmers and local food activists.

“Slow Food is a great cause that we want to support,” said Mychal Dynes, Little Conejo co-owner.

As you’d expect, the meeting featured local food. Ridgefield’s Full Plate Farm provided black futsu winter squash for a special Slow Food taco. La Center farm Gather and Feast provided thyme and hoja santa (Mexican pepperleaf) for a Slow Thyme cocktail.

Help the ‘insecure’

Slow Food Southwest Washington is run by volunteers, said Kim Harless, the organization’s board president. The only staff member is Lynsey Horne, an AmeriCorps VISTA, who heads the organization’s Urban Abundance program, which gleans from local fruit trees. The program aims to help the 13 percent of Clark County residents who are “food insecure,” that is, lack reliable access to nutritious food, Horne said. Children are the hardest hit; 19 percent of Clark County children are deemed food insecure.

“It’s an alarming number,” Horne said. “Nobody should go hungry surrounded by the abundance we have here.”

To combat this problem, Slow Food Southwest Washington’s Urban Abundance program partners with local orchards and property owners with fruit trees. Volunteers help maintain the fruit trees, harvest the fruit and get this fresh produce to local food banks, food pantries and meal programs. In 2019, 217 volunteers harvested 8,900 pounds of fruit for the Clark County Food Bank, with 17,800 servings of fresh local food going to 40 food pantries and meal programs in Clark County.

Next year, Slow Food Southwest Washington will give a Snail Award for the first time, Harless said. The Snail Award is part of a statewide campaign to recognize people who are working to support Slow Food values. The local chapter is currently seeking nominations.

Scholarships offered

In addition, Slow Food Southwest Washington’s Clark County Grown program is offering scholarships for farmers, growers or food producers for education and training. Michelle Week of Good Rain Farm in Camas is the first scholarship recipient. Week grows produce with an emphasis on first foods in honor of her Sinixt ancestors. She will use the scholarship money to attend the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture’s Young Farmers Conference in the Pocantico Hills, N.Y.

Slow Food Southwest Washington hosted two events last year: The Old Apple Tree Festival and Slow Food Cascadia. Slow Food Southwest Washington helped the Cascadia event in 2018 and gave it seed money in 2019, but the event since has spun off as a separate entity.

Slow Food Southwest Washington has accomplished a lot in the last year. The organization is seeking a truck, tools, and volunteers for next year’s harvest in August. In addition, the organization hopes to raise money for an executive director position and office space.