This week, Slow Food chapter leaders were notified that Josh Viertel, President of Slow Food USA, is leaving and that a national search will be conducted to find a new President. Here's what the New York Times reported:
Without saying so directly, the article invites readers to interpret that Viertel's departure is not voluntary, but is rather the result of dissatisfaction with his leadership style and/or the direction in which he wanted to take the organization--an interpretation with which I, as a Board member of a Slow Food chapter, agree.
In April, Slow Food held a national congress in Louisville, the first one since Slow Food Nation in San Francisco four years earlier. All chapters across the US were encouraged to attend, but barely more than 25% of active chapters sent someone, although some chapters sent more than one person. I suspect that poor chapter attendance was seen as a vote of no confidence in Viertel and may have been the final nail in the coffin for his presidency. My chapter decided against going because of the vague meeting content. Had Slow Food USA come out with a detailed, compelling agenda a couple of months in advance of the meeting, that might have convinced us to be there.
A couple of months ago, CH had a lively and intelligent discussion of Slow Food USA that started with reactions to the Slow Food $5 challenge (if it was possible to make a wholesome meal out of local, fairly produced food for $5 or less, and if claiming that people could eat well for this price undermined local farmers) and moved on to broader concerns about how people (both members and non-members) perceived Slow Food and what its primary purpose and goals should be. The big changes in leadership that will soon take place within Slow Food USA afford us another opportunity to consider the issues. So some questions:
1. Do you see the transition in leadership as something positive for Slow Food USA? What should Slow Food be looking for in a new leader?
2. What changes does Slow Food need to make (to be an effective advocate for good, clean and fair food; to attract members; etc.)?
3. If you or someone else in your chapter attended the national congress, was it worthwhile? What was accomplished? If your chapter didn't send someone, why not?
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