Maintaining Earth's biodiversity is a focal concern for the Slow Food Movement. The organization facilitates a handful of projects that are dedicated to protecting food communities and local growers. One of those projects is the Cooks' Alliance which has brought together over 850 chefs and small-scale producers in the United States. Through this network, cooks learn from each other and support one another through their journey of making their restaurants better for the environment. Creating this unique community opens up the way for food industry professionals to continue building their knowledge on food preservation to avoid extinction.
On the other side of the word, the Slow Food Foundation runs the Gardens in Africa project, whose mission is to cultivate 10,000 gardens throughout the continent. The prioritized locations for these gardens are in schools, villages, and places that are on the outskirts of large cities. Currently, there are 3,544 gardens already created.
Through these gardens, the foundation strives to bring awareness to the younger population on the importance of biodiversity and fresh food. Creating gardens in schools also allows students to understand the value of land and their culture. The project operates on the good, clean, and fair philosophy of the organization in several ways.
The gardens are always full of plants that are native to the land and hold a variety of fruit trees, vegetables, and herbs to maintain biodiversity. The benefits go beyond the health of the land too. Not only are the gardens an inexpensive source of food, but they also serve as "open-air" classrooms, and neighboring community gardens participate in seed exchanges. The success of these gardens is in large part due to community effort and the time taken to observe which vegetation is best for the area. The organizers of the Gardens of Africa make sure to work with a network of local leaders and experts, from agronomists to veterinarians. All these efforts combined keep the oldest traditions alive with the new generation.
Along with education and cultivation, preservation is also a top priority for Slow Food. The conversation regarding endangered species is most often associated with animals, but the reality is that many food groups are also in danger of extinction. The Ark of Taste project specifically centers around documenting endangered, traditional foods, so they are not lost. These endangered foods range from animals to sweets to plants.
The Ark of Taste is a one-of-a-kind undertaking because the approach to preservation is tailored in a specific way depending on the item in question. The website details that "in some cases, products need to be rediscovered and put back on the table, and producers need to be supported and to have their stories told." And in other instances, especially with animal species, the way to preserve them best would be by eating less or none of them.
But exactly why are food traditions in danger of being lost? According to Slow Food, there are a handful of factors at play. For one, industrialization has engulfed the world and altered the way food is produced. Machines and factory farming made it possible to grow and harvest food in mass quantities and as quickly as possible. This system has threatened the small-scale production systems that are often operated by families. Then there are the forces of climate change, migration, a change in consumption patterns, and human conflict that have all had a hand in disrupting agricultural biodiversity and traditional production.