Food U.

Slow Food's influence on UW–Madison's campus is ever-growing

If there’s anything about Slow Food that we don’t want to be particularly slow, it’s making all-important connections between like-minded contributors to healthy, local food systems. So we get excited when we see, for example, the Slow Food chapter on the UW–Madison campus partnering with Milwaukee’s Growing Power and the South Madison Farmers’ Market to bring healthy, affordable produce to the campus community.

The program is the brainchild of UW student Aly Miller and Margaret Nellis, her professor in the School of Education. Nellis describes the Slow Food student leaders, including Miller, as amazing: “They have made a serious commitment over the past two years to institutionalize Slow Food–UW’s work to promote ‘just food’ here in beautiful Madison where not everyone has equal access. Slow Food UW’s promotion of Growing Power’s market baskets on campus increases access to healthy produce to students while providing the numbers needed for Growing Power to deliver the baskets for others in Madison, especially low income residents.”

Growing Power is Milwaukee farmer Will Allen’s urban agriculture project that has influenced both First Lady Michelle Obama’s thinking about healthy eating and many others’ thinking about good food, not just available—but grown—in inner cities. Growing Power says its goal is to “grow food, to grow minds and to grow community.” What better place to implement that goal than the UW campus? Miller says the fit with Slow Food–UW is perfect.

“The market basket project is situated within Slow Food–UW’s concerns about justice in the food system,” Miller says. “It all began two summers ago when Margaret introduced me and a fellow student to Robert Pierce. Robert’s whole-hearted approach to community empowerment through sustainable food inspired us to rally as much student support for this community as we could. Today, we’re turning this energy into a variety of self-sustaining projects in South Madison, including an after-school cooking program, a Growing Power gardening plot at the Boys and Girls Club, a cookbook and the market basket program.”

Miller has arranged for three different food basket options for people to order and then have delivered to the Crossing Christian Center on campus.

Growing Power sells these bags of food at an affordable price to ensure that everyone can get their USDA-recommended servings of fruits and vegetables,” she says. “If you want organic, they’ve got that option, but for the most part, the focus is on getting produce on the table. In Milwaukee and Chicago, and now Madison, low-income families living in food deserts can get good food through Growing Power. The students ordering these baskets at UW are involved in creating democratized access to food with every basket they  purchase.”

Miller, Nellis and their partners both on campus and off are the embodiment of the Slow Food Movement—a movement which Miller knows must grow in scope and vision.

“Solving injustices in the food system isn’t going to happen when the attention is limited to specific ‘clean, fair’ foods and certain
farming landscapes. We can turn this food movement, of which Slow Food–UW is a part, into a revolution when we widen the ability to participate from a group of folks with high purchasing powers to folks who are not only starving for ‘good food,’ but also for good education and jobs. This is where the market basket program comes in.”

We can’t think of a more genuine article.

Nancy Christy is the former owner of the Wilson Street Grill. She now runs the consulting firm Meaningful People, Places and Food. Neil Heinen is, among other things, her hungry husband. Comments? Questions? Please write to

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