By Judith Tauber
Last summer, I conducted my Freshman Monroe Research Project on the Slow Food movement under the guidance of my wonderful advisor, Professor Mattavelli. I had been exposed to the principles of Slow Food—without realizing it—nearly my entire life because my family places immense importance on choosing only organic, local foods. However, I wasn’t formally introduced to the Slow Food movement until taking Intermediate Italian with Professor Mattavelli during my first semester at William & Mary. I was drawn to the topic and later found myself wondering whether the organization had chapters in the United States, and if so, how these impacted their communities.
Slow Food was founded in Bra, Italy in 1986 by Carlo Petrini, mostly in response to the opening of a McDonald’s in Rome. In many respects, Slow Food is an alternative to fast food: it supports local, traditional food systems and values healthy, high-quality, sustainable and humane food practices, as is expressed in their motto good, clean and fair food for all. Today, the movement has about 78,000 members in one hundred and sixty countries.
For my research, I chose to focus on how American collegiate Slow Food chapters address problems in food production and subsequently interviewed representatives of Slow Food University of Vermont, Slow Food Emory and Slow Food Clemson. I then explored existing literature on the principal topics these groups discussed—migrant justice, food insecurity, and the importance of local food—and summarized my findings in a forty-page paper written in Italian. From the interviews, I found that each group primarily aims to educate the public using a variety of events, which are usually cheap or free; that a chapter’s location greatly impacted its topics and activities; and that all three representatives highly praised the Slow Food movement for its flexibility and adaptability.
Moreover, this project has transformed me both personally and professionally. For example, my eating habits have changed: I almost always cook for myself now, even making homemade pasta, pizza, and ice cream from scratch. I also tend to my own small herb garden and visit the farmer’s market as often as I can. Furthermore, I found that it was far less challenging to write a lengthy academic paper than I thought, even in a foreign language. In fact, this undertaking—despite being the one that originally intimidated me the most—was the one I most enjoyed! I loved being nearly fully immersed in the language: I was absorbing new vocabulary and sentence structures with every paragraph I wrote. In addition, I savored the gradual clarity that came with arranging everything I had learned into an organized paper. I also greatly enjoyed the thrill of sharing my findings with the academic community via my paper and my presentation at the Summer Research Showcase.
In short, if the opportunity presents itself to you to explore a topic of interest in depth, I urge you to make use of it: research is an exhilarating experience! For more information on my research project, please visit http://freshmanmonroe.blogs.wm.edu/2018/03/29/slow-food-fast-food-world-american-collegiate-chapters-approaches-food-production-issues/
 “Slow Food International.” Slow Food International, www.slowfood.com/.