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Posted 3 years, 11 months ago in SFYN Blogs

A SFYNtern shares her experiences and lessons learned: “Where’s the nearest McDonald’s?” “Don’t mention the enemy!” – And so began my six month internship with Slow Food. As a newbie to the world of gastronomy (and still unsure about the contents of ragù), my first few weeks in Bra were both controversial and enlightening. I joined Slow Food International’s Communication Office, where my main tasks were translation and editing.

By:Eleanor Bermingham, former SFYNtern

Two days in, the handsome (and only) young man in the room approached me and extended an invitation to do some work on the
Slow Food Youth Network. Francesco is SFYN’s coordinator. I was intrigued – to my unblown mind the world of food and farming was
reserved for fusty politicians and gentle farmers – what could young people do to change it? I accepted the mission, and except for some hitches along the way (“I can’t believe you are drinking Diet Coke!
In front of me!”) Francesco and I hit the ground running.

We began with a physical tour of the office and a virtual meet and greet with the worldwide network. After countless Paolo/Paolas, I was relieved
to meet people whose names I could associate with places; Sinae from South Korea, John from Kenya, and Aysenur from Turkey. This became important because the efforts of each activist were based around their specific territory – a key Slow Food concept. While Spencer was campaigning about marine biodiversity on the east coast of the United States, Zayaan was liaising with community garden Tyisa Nabanye and                    Francesco & Eleanor
government representatives in Cape Town.                   

 Here’s what I learned:

 Food is everything. It’s geography, science, history, politics, conviviality, sociology,  anthropology... It is also language. There are no  words that can express goodwill in the same  way as sharing a meal. Cooking for others or eating food produced by someone else with  appreciation and thoughtfulness encourages a connection with our fellow humans. It does so  in such a powerful way that Slow Food emphasizes this human kinship in all its pursuits.

The way we use language and food is so crucial to all the elements mentioned above, and I began to see that through the multi-faceted lens of the Slow Food Youth Network. Raising awareness and effecting change are things that happen by winning over hearts and minds, and SFYN activists worldwide are using all their wit and creativity to do so. The pun-tastic wonderland that is Disco Soup (fruit a-peeling against food waste) is just one example of presenting things in an open and fun light in order to engage young people, and SFYN is winning the battle.  

Don’t be misled into thinking that we’re all sizzle and no steak. The serious issues facing our planet are thoroughly understood and considered by our activists, who work hard and have exhaustive solutions to complex problems. This is what I am most looking forward to seeing at We Feed The Planet in October. SFYN will open its arms to young people all over the world to launch a dialogue on the future of food that is led from the front by those who are instrumental in its inner workings. Seeing the network grow from when I began my internship in February 2014 in the short time to We Feed The Planet in 2015 is very gratifying, because it means more people are getting an introduction to the initiatives and individuals I have been so lucky to encounter. 

SFYN’s energy is boundless, our activists care about their world and not only do they possess an abundance of knowledge, they’re keen to share it (“Ludo, how do you make bread? I need to translate an article!” “Come to my office, I’ve drawn you some diagrams”).

I am not a foodie, or a gastronome, or a soil scientist (looking at you Steffen), but I was welcomed to straight into the worldwide SFYN squad. My own personal experience is a testament to the universality of SFYN and Slow Food. You don’t have to be an expert or committed vegan to get involved, you just have to come with enthusiasm and a mind that is open to seeing the world differently.