Post by Gabrielle Redner, a current intern at Slow Food USA.

Since I first heard about an Eat-In at Terra Madre 2008, I couldn’t get the picture out of my head. I saw photos of the Eat-In at Slow Food Nation, and mentally transported the scene to Washington Square Park in New York City. Food is a universal language, and (almost) everybody enjoys a good meal–at least everybody has to eat. Sharing a meal with a community, out in the open, is the best way to engage peoplethose already committed to eating sustainable foods and those unfamiliar with the impact of their food choicesin a conversation about building a sustainable food system.

While at the inspiring conference in Turin, I was revved up and I wondered how I could contribute to the energy of Youth Food Movement when I got back home. When people began to speak about the Eat-In idea, it clicked, and I thought, I can do that! I also saw it as a way to recreate the type of community I witnessed at Terra Madre: people who did not know one another when the event began, but conversed as if they were old friends, and by the end were friends because of their common goals and vision for the world.

At first, my plan for the Eat-In was lofty. I wanted to simulate the San Francisco Eat-In, with 250 people attending. We would set up tables and chairs in Washington Square Park, get NYU students, local high-school students, and local Slow Food Members to sign up beforehand, and on the day of the Eat-In we would shop from the Union Square Farmer’s Market, cook in various restaurant kitchens, and come back together to eat in the Park. During the meal, various educators, chefs, and farmers would speak. The goal would be to learn about our local food system, understand exactly what we can do to contribute to a growing sustainable food movement, and get to know the sources of our food. We would show that everyone can and should have access to ‘good, clean and fair’ food. The plan was exciting, but grandiose. It would require lots of money and the collaboration of many important, busy people. I was no longer surrounded by the bouncing energy of Terra Madre, and while people were receptive to my vision, I knew it would take a thorough plan.

As the larger Eat-in begins to take shape, I am re-energized with a smaller, mini Eat-In, which is in the works for early April.

Here is the idea:
1. Decide on a menu, depending on what is in season (call the farmer’s market to ask what will be available on the date we are planning for).

2. Buy the food, and store it in our school’s kitchen overnight.

3. Gather a group of people (this should be done beforehand) to cook a simple meal in the kitchen (we are thinking sandwiches, a fruit or squash chutney, and a side of veggies).

4. Set up a table outside, in a high traffic area.

5. Sell the plates of food at a cost that will cover the purchase.

The Slogan? “local food for local people in support of a local economy.”

A fellow student recently said to me, I wish I could eat organic food, but it is so expensive. The Eat-In is a great opportunity to bring locally sourced, good-for-the-farmer, good-for-the-people, good-for-the-earth food to the community and to students who feel they can’t afford it.

In what ways have you thought about bringing the energy of a major Slow Food event back to your local community? Do you have similar suggestions or ideas about how to invigorate and inspire your community this spring? And, if you are curious about a national network of Eat-Ins, get in touch, we’d love to hear what you’re considering.