FOCUS ON SALONE DEL GUSTO / TERRA MADRE – Healthy Canteens, Healthy Communities

Terra Madre food communities and cooks have been speaking up about the need to radically overhaul our public catering systems during the current Terra Madre world meeting, presenting some of their innovative projects to offer nutritious, tasty and sustainably produced food in simple daily menus and provide sensory education.

Improving food quality in schools, hospitals and company canteens has been taken up by both the Terra Madre meeting and Salone del Gusto as a key issue this year – in theory and in practice – with “good, clean and fair” canteens and a series of workshops dedicated to discussions on how to improve public catering.

Culinary teacher Paul Finklestein shared his unique project at a Canadian high school of 1,200 students at the Healthy Canteens Earth Workshop on Saturday. This school now features two canteens: the traditional dining hall and a new alternative where students work with Paul to prepare up to 300 meals each day based on fresh, seasonal ingredients, locally sourced.

“This is a cross-generational tool of change,” Paul said. “By students learning to cook, we hope that their parents will also be reconnected with good food and that their grandparents will be motivated to bring back traditions.” The students, two of whom are youth delegates at Terra Madre, are also growing food at the school and have formed a culinary club which fundraises for trips across the country and internationally to explore other food regions.

The importance of ‘healing’ and good food was highlighted in the examples provided by Alice Hospital in Darmstadt, Germany and Asti Hospital in Italy. Both hospitals have transformed their catering departments to source from a large number of local producers rather than a handful of bigger suppliers, and have made taste and nutritional qualities key criteria in their menu planning. Price remains a key concern for these kitchens, which have to provide hundreds of meals per day, but the hospital in Asti has found the price rise to be moderate, and will be monitoring hospital services to see if improving the food quality reduces the number of days spent in care.

Two of the Asti Hospital’s staff are working in the Salone del Gusto’s “Dream Canteen,” a meal area where visitors can eat lunch and dinner each day as well as learn about Slow Food’s vision of better, fairer and greener collective dining approaches. Dream Canteen workshops are taking place each day, involving canteen committees, local authority public caterers, cooks and journalists in discussions and tastings of sample dishes.

The Terra Madre dining hall, providing lunch for 5,000 delegates each day, is based upon the same principles, designed to promote local food products and reduce CO2 emissions.

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