Food for Change: 'Slow Food' Concept Gains Momentum

Facing a hectic daily schedule, most city dwellers these days tend to avoid preparing their own meals unless it's a special occasion, as they consider the process to be too much of a burden. 

But Food for Change, a network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that supports natural farming methods and alternative agriculture, is encouraging city folk to cook their own meals on a regular basis since it makes for a healthier lifestyle. Food for Change includes the Biothai Foundation, the Alternative Agriculture Network, along with several other similar organizations among its membership. 

According to Kingkorn Narinthornkul na Ayudhaya, the coordinator of the network and vice-president of the Biothai Foundation, most city residents have allowed themselves to become accustomed to eating fast food and they no longer pay any heed to the food production process nor food resources. 

People have become increasingly hooked on convenience foods, such as hamburgers, khao rad khaeng (a combination of two or three scoops of Thai food on rice), or microwavable rice-based frozen meals. These days, they prefer to eat whatever is available close to hand and therefore don't tend to seek out safe and healthy meals, according to Kingkorn. 

Slow Food Campaign
Food for Change has been urging people living in the city to think more carefully before purchasing their food as part of a 'Slow Food' campaign, which began in 2008. 

The concept of slow food, which emerged in Italy almost 25 years ago, has been adopted in many parts of the world with the degree of active participation varying, according to each country's domestic social and economic objectives. 

Kingkorn says that Food for Change is focused on raising awareness about alternative choices relating to food intake and shopping for chemical-free ingredients. The network communicates with the general public through its website at www.food4change.in.th.

The website provides articles concerning food safety and alternative ways of shopping for food ingredients. It also acts as a hub for people interested in the idea, so they can exchange information about food-related matters. The network organizes various events for the general public, so they can meet face to face with like-minded people and interact with them on relevant subjects, such as home cooking and vegetable cultivation. 

Culinary Key
Kingkorn says the network's activities emphasize cookery since it serves as a tool to encourage people to learn more about the country's rich and abundant food resources, as well as its culinary heritage. 

Cooking can also serve to provide other forms of knowledge, including historical aspects. For example, Thai people's ancestors would tend to prepare meals according to the seasons, which would relate to the life cycles of various kinds of plants. According to Kingkorn, this would ensure that diners received the maximum amount of nutrition since the plants would only be gathered for use in meals at the most appropriate time. 

Raising Awareness
Most city residents these days, and especially young adults, pay little interest to the culinary habits of their forebears. But what's worse is that some aren't even aware that they possessed such wisdom, according to Kingkorn. 

“The process of preparing a meal can provoke someone to learn more about their own country's food culture, which might lead us back towards living harmoniously with nature, as our ancestors did before us,” Kingkorn says. 

Kingkorn says that when people go shopping for ingredients in order to cook themselves a meal, or prepare a meal for their loved ones, they tend to select the best ingredients, although people's perceptions as to what is 'best' can vary markedly. 

Some consumers may think nice looking vegetables or imported meat products are 'best', while others may seek out organic foods, or those that are guaranteed to be free from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Kingkorn suggests that the latter approach signifies the correct understanding of the concept. Moreover, she says people should also seek out goods that are produced in such as way as to avoid causing harm to the environment and that don't attempt to mess with the natural life cycles of animals or plants. 

She says that consumers should develop a habit of locating information about the production processes of various food products that are available in supermarkets, so they can make a more informed decision as to whether or not to buy them. 

Supporting Organic Farming
Kingkorn says that another objective of Food for Change’s campaign is to buy produce from farmers who do not use chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or growth hormones when cultivating plants or rearing animals.
 

 

These farmers have shunned the government-sponsored, single-crop plantation method, which uses lots of chemicals in order to maximize output, but which also can create threats to farmers' and consumers' health. 

Kingkorn suggests that there are now a large number of environmentally aware food producers in the kingdom and that more and more farmers are interested in moving towards 'Greener' methods of production. In order to make a significant impact, consumers should support such efforts by purchasing their products, since this would allow them to compete more effectively with their rather more industrialized competitors. 
 

 

Changing The World
Kingkorn predicts that the campaign in Thailand for slow food will get stronger as the world is facing an environmental crisis that's encouraging more consumers to sit up and take notice and reconsider their behavior. 

To participate in the campaign, Kingkorn says it makes sense to begin by learning more about food processing. Consumers should also think more carefully before purchasing food products and should try to support organic farmers by purchasing their produce. 

“With a better understanding of food processing, our food purchasing habits can change the world,” says Kingkorn.

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