In an effort to “take back the value meal,” Slow Food USA urged Americans to skip eating out and prepare an affordable meal at home using fresh, local ingredients.
On Sept. 17, tens of thousands rose to the occasion.
“We never imagined so many people would step up,” said Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA, a Brooklyn-based sustainable food and farming nonprofit. “We expected 500 meals and a few thousand people.”
“Last Saturday, over 30,000 people came together at more than 5,572 meals,” Viertel said. “But we can’t stop there.”
With the help of Slow Food chapters, partners and other businesses, participants enjoyed an evening of food, friends and fun. And the nonprofit gathered feedback about how tricky their meals were to pull off.
In a food desert in Portland, 100 residents prepared everything from tacos to Persian soup and discussed ways to bring fresher food to their neighborhood.
Vendors sold $5 meals at Chicago’s largest farmer’s market, and a gathering of all-local food trucks – called the “Food Truckus Ruckus” – drew hundreds of hungry diners in Louisville.
Choosing slow food was easy for some, according to feedback given to Slow Food USA. Satisfied diners said that eating in is surprisingly pleasurable and cooking simple food at home can cost far less than fast food.
For others – particularly those trying to prepare meals with only local and organic ingredients – the $5 Challenge was a little tougher.
Most diners that reported problems said that local and organic ingredients were hard to come by in their neighborhoods or cost too much to meet the $5-per-person goal.
Some even said that fast food was nearly the only option in their area, which isn’t surprising since more than 23 million Americans live in communities without supermarket access, according to Slow Food USA.
While preparing slow food at home was difficult for some, the $5 Challenge will set the stage for a broader campaign to change policies that make it tricky for Americans to do the right thing when it comes to food, the nonprofit said.
The organization’s next push will center on the 2012 Food & Farm Bill, which could change farming incentives and bring more affordable farmer’s markets to underserved communities.
In the spirit of fresh food for all, Slow Food USA is offering a “give what you can” membership during the month of September.
Through Sept. 30, a donation of any amount will make you a member of Slow Food USA, and you can start getting up-to-date on food news, attending local events and becoming a part of the movement.
If you missed the $5 Challenge action day on Sept. 17, there’s still plenty of time to get involved. Check out our library of simple and slow recipes or head to Slow Food USA for tips on serving your own meals at home.