Meet the students who feed the masses at UW The Badger Herald
Slow Food is one of the few student-run food aid organizations at the University of Wisconsin whose mission is to provide Well, to clean and fair food for all members of the community.
Slow Food UW started in 2011 and has been a powerful and transformative underground community ever since. Although the organization has been hit hard in the past two years by the pandemic, Gwen Kelley and Emma Hamilton, upper class students who are co-directors of Slow Food UW, say the organization is back and better than ever. .
The term “slow food” balances out “fast food”, hence the reason why the snail has come to represent their initiative. They give priority to the careful preparation of food with ingredients of ethical origin.
Each week, Slow Food UW offers two home-cooked meals, with the freshest ingredients, available from $ 5 and going up to around $ 8 in total. Meals take place in the basement of Christian ministry on campus on University Ave and at the corner of North Charter Street at The passage.
Meals prepared by the organization are meant to be eaten slowly for maximum enjoyment – something our modern and hectic society tends to forget. And the the dedication to their initiative is apparent in everything slow food does.
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Family Dinner Night was the first chapter of Slow Food UW and started as a monthly event. It quickly spread to a weekly or bi-weekly gathering on Mondays, starting at 6:30 p.m.
Designed to show students that they can eat good local food at an affordable price, family dinners are a modern take on the waning tradition of family dinners. There is a ritualistic sense of beauty in watching a hundred students and faculty all sit down at the same time to be served a lovingly made meal. Family Dinner Night is a three or sometimes four course meal including a starter or a side dish plus a starter followed by a dessert.
Hamilton said they usually sell out pretty quickly, which is why he’s encouraged to come early – and be hungry.
“It’s unfortunate when people come and we can’t serve them, but running out of food is a good problem,” Hamilton said.
Le Café Repas is a meal suitable for lunch, served from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. on Wednesdays. Given its central location, it offers students the option of switching between classes. They’re also a hot three-course meal, and are usually paired with kombucha from the Willy Street Co-op.
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The Mercredi Café Meals serve fewer people than the Family Dinner Night, in order to earn money, hence the à la carte method. Items are priced individually, which ultimately helps generate a profit, unlike the family dinner feast in balance.
Each meal offers vegetarian and gluten-free options for people with dietary restrictions. Kelley said it’s been part of their mission for some time to provide consumers with options that are right for them, because they don’t want to discourage anyone from attending.
When it comes to meat, not serving it is both more sustainable and more affordable. This is why the meat they have used in the past has usually been donated by chefs with whom Slow Food has collaborated. Nonetheless, meat remains a rare sight to see in a Slow Food meal.
Don’t worry if you can’t make it for a sit-down meal at The Crossing, as Slow Food UW has a take-out option. Last year, eating became the group’s primary method of eating during COVID-19. People are strongly recommended to bring their own take out container – otherwise an additional $ 1 fee will be charged.
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Mass production of food is not only a time consuming task, but an expensive and complex task. Menus are often planned a week in advance and preparation takes place the day before and on the day of meals. All the ingredients are sourced locally, so you’re really getting a great deal while supporting a great cause.
Managers work with interns and the sourcing team to create the menus in a collaborative process in which members discuss ideas thoroughly beforehand and research recipes before multiplying quantities needed to increase size. The respective meal directors will plan their menu and then transcribe it to work with a supplier based on what they need and how much they need.
“We work together every week to plan for what’s good and affordable,” Hamilton said. “It’s a fun puzzle to see what you can do with what you’re given and brainstorm on what to make available locally and in season. “
Ingredient sourcing is mostly on Saturdays and much of it comes from the Farmer’s Market, where the team tries to get as many produce as possible.
Anything that cannot be found is completed by the Co-op or Monroe Street Farmer’s Market on Sundays. But budgeting comes with its own risks, as it is very difficult to plan a meal to be accurately priced. Kelley said communication is key as ingredients sometimes need to be replaced with more affordable options.
“It’s not perfect science, which is why we ask people to look at our menus,” Kelley explained. “An example that comes to mind is when we were making a risotto last year and [had] calculated how many mushrooms we would have needed. It ended up costing around $ 400 just for the mushrooms.
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One of the most important factors regarding Slow Food’s accessibility is its Pay It Forward program. The organization never wants costs to stop providing someone with a good meal, so customers can donate that will directly benefit the community for just a few extra dollars. Anyone can request a Pay It Forward meal from a cashier absolutely free without asking any further questions.
Money donated for the Pay It Forward program goes into its own reserve and will always be available on demand. Food insecurity is a widely lived problem that Slow Food intends to tackle, it is an area of communication that they aim to do more about as it is anchored in their mission statement.
There are many ways to get involved with Slow Food UW, but a good first step is to volunteer first. Kelley said this is how most students start before applying for the internship position.
If you have not yet attended a family dinner or cafe meal, you are surely missing out on some deliciously cheap and local foods. It’s the perfect opportunity to experience the fresh ingredients Madison offers close to farmland.