A Festival Snapshot

By Richard McCarthy

As the dust settles from an exhilarating festival weekend, we are beginning to piece together the feedback from partners, participants, exhibitors, and attendees. The developing image shows one of the most important food meetings in America in nearly a decade.

First, the numbers:

Estimated Attendance


Individual Events


Individuals and families discovered the profound joy that comes with connecting to food and food traditions (otherwise trampled on by Fast Food’s devotion to speed and scale). And it is perhaps here in particular where our movement and organization differs.

Behind the fun and the frivolity, we are serious.
We are committed to changing the world.

It is no accident that Ricardo Salvador opened the delegate summit with hopeful yet sobering insights into structural racism, colonization, and the historical footprint of oppression. This is, after all, why we are here. Change is not easy. It can be clumsy, but there is no alternative. We do not have all the answers or all of the people. Not yet.

The Denver gathering marks a new beginning for the food movement and for Slow Food. It was a huge risk, but we pulled it off. Growing upon the foundations of this year’s gathering, we are excited to broadcast to our members, our partners, and to the wider world a few key messages:

1. Food is the bridge that unites us. We bridge between urban and rural, between Mexico and the USA, and between pleasure and responsibility.

2. We have a plan to unite rural and urban America. Why do we care about school gardens? Not only do they provide a pathway into transforming schools, kids and home cooking, they provide us with a means to unite town with country, eater with farmer. The extraordinary lunch Alice Waters staged on the lawn of the State Capitol served as an experiential endorsement for a new plan for connecting rural and urban America. It will take a concerted public investment for schools to serve scratch cooking that is local and sustainable.

3. Chefs are important actors to cook up a better future. We launched the Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance and the Slow Food Menu for Change global campaign to highlight the relationship between food and climate. Thanks to the Hearth & Dram for hosting a (very late) evening with the chefs who are committed to leveraging climate-friendly menus to activate eaters to vote with their forks.

4. We are a global and indigenous movement. We were deeply honored to share the weekend with Slow Food Mexico and Slow Food Turtle Island, with traditional foods and the people who produce them.

5. Food Justice must be central to our work. Thank you to the entrepreneurial drive of leaders, like Charity Kenyon and Jim Embry who organized some of the weekend’s most popular and most-talked about dinners and discussions.

6. We must walk the walk. We did not want to measure our success in pounds (of waste). From the upcycled lanyards to the composting, metal cups, and related programming, we are committed to talk the talk and walk the walk. Undoubtedly, Steven Satterfield invented a new Slow Food tradition with Sunday evening’s closing meal featuring only food destined for the dumpsters.

Thank you to all who traveled to this Mile High City. Thank you to the Slow Food team, and especially to event director Krista Roberts. Thank you to our enthusiastic and dedicated partners. As Carlo Petrini is known to say:

Change this world… slowly.

Richard McCarthy
Executive Director, Slow Food USA

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