Full Belly, Full Heart: A Slow Food Nations Reflection

Whenever you attend a Slow Food event, no matter what part of the world you may be in, you know one thing for sure:  the food is going to be spectacular. At Slow Food Nations, however, the food was just one of many amazing experiences.

2018 marked the second year of Slow Food Nations, an annual event put on by Slow Food USA that celebrates all things good, clean, and fair food. Over the course of the 3-day event, there were 16 opportunities to gather together and enjoy a meal, six summits, 11workshops, one jam-packed Delegate Day, and over 20,000 total attendees. With so much to taste, see, and do and so many folks in attendance, there’s no doubt that everyone went home with their own unique takeaway. And although I have no doubt that for many folks the memory of the delicious meals they partook of will be what lingers most in their minds, for me it was something different. My biggest takeaway was this:  relationships move mountains.

As a Slow Food Nations Delegate, I not only represented my Slow Food Community (Slow Food DC) at the event in Denver, I also had the honor of presenting about one of my greatest passions – public policy. I know policy doesn’t sound that sexy, especially when you put it up against the opportunity to taste sample Okanagan Sockeye Salmon or cook with renown regional chefs, but to those of us who understand the impact policymaking can have, there are few things more exciting.

On the first day of the event, as part of the Slow Food Leaders’ Summit, I presented as part of a panel entitled, “Food Activism Beyond the Fork.” Led by former Slow Food USA Policy Intern, Taylor Pate, I joined Kevin Scribner (Forever Wild Seafood), Jennifer Casey (Fondy Food Center), and Fatuma Emmad (Groundwork Denver) in exploring policy, civic action, and grassroots initiatives that support a good, clean, and fair food and farm system. I was also fortunate to present at another policy panel during the main conference, “Intro to the Farm Bill”. This event, which was co-presented by Jeni Lam Rogers and Kelleen Zubik, was an opportunity to chat with the public and answer their questions about how the 2018 Farm Bill could impact their lives and what they could do to get engaged in the policy process.

Outside of my own events, I of course had many opportunities to connect with new friends, allies, and good food leaders. It was these connections, in fact, that I think were the most impactful part of the entire Slow Food Nations experience. Denver’s Chef Paul C. Reilly showed me what embodying your values in the food you make looks like, Matthew Koster of Corner Post Meats reminded me the value of the hustle and that you can accomplish anything if you put enough energy toward it, and Gailey Morgan of Tesuque Pueblo and all the participants from Slow Food Turtle Island reconnected me to the core reasons I do this work – we are not only the descendants of our ancestors, but the ancestors of our descendants. Good food, Ch’iyaan Ya’at’eehégii in the Diné language, is much more than just nourishment; it is also pleasure, culture, and identity.

I value events like Slow Food Nations because they afford us the opportunity to connect both with longtime friends, and also to forge new connections that will feed our personal and professional lives. I thank Slow Food USA for allowing me to serve on the National Policy Committee and to present for the second year in a row at this amazing event. And I thank everyone who presented with me, supported my efforts, and helped me to continue to grow. I hope to have the opportunity to meet many more of you out there working to make our food and farm systems as good, clean, and fair as possible. Perhaps at Slow Food Nations 2019, or if you’re in the DC area, maybe we’ll connect at a Slow Food DC event in the future!

To see Reana’s photos from Slow Food Nations, check out the album on our Facebook page.

– Reana Kovalcik
Associate Director, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Vice Chair, Slow Food DC

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