Sugar Tax and Slow Snacks: How We Can Fight Junk Food

The Slow Food network is sharing its experiences and presenting its initiatives to spread greater awareness about the food we eat and its impact on our health. 

Not everyone knows that there are three sides to malnutrition: undernutrition, nutrient deficiencies and overnutrition.

These problems manifest themselves in both the global north and south alongside economic and education poverty. They can be seen in Africa as well as socially vulnerable urban areas in the West, where access to fresh, healthy, local food is often out of reach for many. 

On Friday September 21, Andrea Pezzana, a lecturer in nutrition at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, led a forum at Salone del Gusto Terra Madre 2018, attended by a large, multicultural audience of people eager to participate in the discussion. 

“The Food and Health thematic area shows Slow Food’s innovative drive, which has led to this breakthrough: an entire section dedicated to the relationship between diet and well-being and the importance of nutrition, because we all need to have good, clean, fair and healthy food available to us,” began the first speaker, Antonella Cordone, a senior technical advisor on nutrition for IFAD, the International Fund for Agricultural Development. “Our objective, in harmony with Slow Food, is to reduce poverty in developing countries by working together with small-scale producers,” she continued. “In 2018, it is unacceptable that 150 million children do not have enough food.” 

Indeed, malnutrition hits hardest and causes lasting consequences particularly in childhood and the delicate phase of growth. Fosca Nomis, the head of Italian and European advocacy and policy at Save the Children, spoke further on this topic. Save the Children, a Slow Food partner in the “Orti in Condotta” school gardens project, has been working in schools to create food gardens that can become the beating heart of a community. These gardens are places where people of all ages can learn everything they need to know about nutrition and health, where knowledge can be transferred and which can be tended by children together with their parents. Food gardens are complementary spaces for schools: All too often, the importance of the school canteen is undervalued. School meals are an important way of allowing children to remain at school all day and attend classes, laying solid foundations for their future. 

While the role of food gardens is fundamental, that of cooks and chefs is also important. Ana Edna Antonuela Ariza Retamozo, chef at the restaurant MiniMal in Bogotá, Colombia and a member of the Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance, shared her experiences with using local ingredients like ajì negro, which are sustainable and fair along their entire production and distribution chain. In her cooking, she often uses fruits and other local foods that even her Colombian diners have never heard of. 

“We know that there is extensive biodiversity around us, but we don’t take advantage of it,” explained John Wanyu, the coordinator of the Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance in Uganda. He runs projects and initiatives to teach children the importance of knowing how to prepare fruits and vegetables as a way of fighting against readily available junk food. His experiences have been similar to those of Menar Meebed, Slow Food Egypt coordinator and founder of the Minnie’s Dried Fruits & Vegetables project. 

The last to speak was Shane Holland, director of Slow Food in the United Kingdom and the Slow Food London convivium leader. He highlighted how malnutrition is a rising problem in the West too. Shops and supermarkets sell cheap, poor-quality food, particularly when it comes to meat. Things are changing, slowly, with growing attention to the issue. The imposition of the sugar tax is one example: Its introduction has had positive effects in the UK, but it is not enough to just reduce consumption of sodas. These measures must be part of wider action, and Slow Food can play a key role in awareness-raising.   

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