Columbus City Council is considering a measure that would require licensing ($150/yr) for community markets, defined as “any organized gathering of persons to primarily sell… merchandise, fruits, meats, dairy, vegetables, garden produce and/or food for human consumption.” That could mean community markets, farmer’s markets, food trucks, what have you. There will be a presentation from Public Safety and an opportunity for the public to comment TOMORROW, Thursday the 14th, and a second reading on June 25, at which there will be a second opportunity and possibly a final vote.
Please attend and comment! If you cannot do so, please email questions before 3pm Thursday to John Ivanic, firstname.lastname@example.org, who will pass them along to presenters. For specific questions on the measure, call Councilwoman Michelle Mills’ office at 614-645-5344.
Update: Thursday’s hearing will be held at 5:00 p.m., in Council Chambers.
Alana’s Food and Wine
2333 N. High St., Columbus
Tuesday, June 26, 7-9 p.m.
Free for members/$25 for nonmembers
We are thrilled to announce a potluck dinner at Alana’s Food and Wine to honor and congratulate 2010 Terra Madre delegate Jeni Britton-Bauer on the occasion of her receipt of a James Beard Award for her book, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home! Though Columbus chefs and writers have been nominated in the past, and the Dispatch’s Robin Davis brought a Beard Award with her when she moved here, Jeni is the first native Columbusite to have received this tremendous honor.
Jeni’s commitment to sustainability, quality, and sourcing have made her a household name in Columbus in a very short time and have propelled her ice creams to the national stage. Jeni was one of two delegates who represented our chapter at Slow Food Nation in San Francisco. She joined Slow Food at the inception of our chapter and has supported us with donations of ice cream literally from our first event. Jeni was a founding member of Local Matters and partners with and promotes more local farmers than almost any other chef in the region.
To congratulate Jeni on having won a James Beard Award, we will give her the gift that she’s given us: food. Bring a favorite dish (soup, salad, appetizer, entree, or dessert) to Alana’s to share and enjoy the creativity of the other home chefs who comprise our membership. Alana will open her restaurant to us… and even bring an entree herself. In addition, there will be a cash bar.
Everyone should bring a dish, a label describing it, and a serving utensil if needed; couples are welcome to conspire but should still take two tickets. The event is free to members and $25 for nonmembers (who can either add a “nonmember ticket” to their order or visithttp://slowfoodusa.org/local to join Slow Food USA for… $25.) Tickets are available here.
We hope to see you there.
One of the core values of Slow Food is the idea of fairness—the goal that everyone in the chain of production should be treated fairly. Another is expanding food access. For those reasons, the fact that Ohio’s Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) and its contractor, Ohio Penal Industries (OPI), are in the meat- and milk-production business piqued our interest.
The benefits to such programs are not insignificant. Many inmates are happy to take part in them because they provides training for future jobs. There may be advantages to society, as well: OPI’s meat program boasts a recidivism rate for its prisoners of 10.4%, compared to nearly triple that for the general population. [ETA: Though it is hard to say whether the decrease is due to the advantages that the program conveys or the selection of inmates who are less likely to be repeat offenders.] And revenues (OPI reported FY2011 revenues of $6.3m for its meat-processing facilities) can help defray the cost of prisons.
At the same time, sales of prison-made products to the public are generally touchy, for good reason. Though the inmates are typically compensated for their work, they’re not paid well—most earn around $1 an hour. The use of inexpensive labor in a facility for which taxpayers pay the rent raises the prospect that prison industries will unfairly undercut private industry. In recognition of this concern, Ohio passed a law in 1884 restricting prison-made goods from competing directly with private manufacturers. In 1981, however, the Ohio legislature reversed itself by passing House Bill 654, which authorized OPI to market sales with the private sector. At present, the DRC’s farm operations are surprisingly extensive—surely more so than is needed to supply the prisons themselves with food.
Accordingly, although the meat processing facility located at the Pickaway Correctional Institution was originally intended to reduce costs to taxpayers by providing meat to Ohio’s burgeoning prison population, it soon expanded into the private market. According to Rebecca Avery, the program’s administrator, 25% of the beef produced now goes to OPI’s Prime Cuts Program, where it makes its way to restaurants and grocers. The price is set at a fraction of the price found in the USDA Weekly National Carlot Meat Report, which reflects national averages; the meat is sold to a separate company for marketing and resale.
The program is not without its merits. Prisoners deserve good food, and if the quality of their food is improved by farming and processing facilities that they willingly participate in, the result is probably a net gain for prisoners and taxpayers alike. If the prisons produce food that improves the quality or quantity of what is available in foodbanks, even better.
Nevertheless, prison-produced meat that undercuts private producers in an open market is truly problematic. It is not fair to taxpayers, who could have more of their prison costs offset. Most of all, though, it is not fair to the farmers whose livelihood is threatened. It raises the spectacle of a society in which farms are run out of business and prison labor produces a significant percentage of our food. The food produced might seem cheaper and therefore be seductive to consumers, but the true cost would come out of their state taxes—and would give them a financial interest in high rates of incarceration.
This system deserves to be reconsidered. If it continues to expand, it will constitute a genuine danger, especially to those small farmers who are least able to compete. There is no compelling need for correctional institutions to enter the farming business: the benefits of lowering taxpayers’ costs for incarceration are far outweighed by the threat to farmers.
The first group is Patrick Testa and the folks at WOSU. They have an annual fundraiser, Chefs in the City, that brings some of the top chefs in the world to Columbus. A few years ago, we suggested adding a quick meet-and-greet and book signing for folks who wanted to meet these chefs but couldn’t attend the fundraiser. The WOSU folks agreed, and a collaboration was born: they provide the chef, we provide some food for the people in line, and the first 50 people to sign up get in for free.
They didn’t have to do this. But they do, and it’s pretty cool.
This year’s guest chef is Chef Hubert Keller, familiar to West Coasters as the talent behind Fleur de Lys in San Francisco, to TV viewers as the handsome chef with the flowing grey hair on Top Chef Masters, and to backyard cooks as the author of Burger Bar: Build Your Own Ultimate Burgers. Chef Keller will be at the WOSU Studios at COSI on Wednesday, May 2, from 12:30-2:00 p.m. to chat with people and sign books.
The other awesome person who prompted me to write this post is Jennie Scheinbach, proprietor of Pattycake Bakery. When I asked Jennie whether she wanted to partner with us for this event, she said, “Sure!” (Keep in mind that Chef Keller started as a pastry chef.) When I suggested making something from Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, she agreed immediately. We got her some pawpaw—a local banana-like fruit—from Chris Chmiel, the local pawpaw king at Integration Acres (Chris, who shipped same-day when we called him? Also awesome) and she started experimenting. When last I heard, she was angling toward a peanut butter whoopie pie with pawpaw filling… which sounds pretty delicious.
Finally, when we asked Jennie what the bill would be, she just said, “Well, you got the pawpaw, so the rest is on us.” That’s 50 whoopie pies, folks. For free. That’s Jennie. And she’s really awesome.
What does this mean for you? It means that the WOSU folks are letting you sit in a room and talk with a world-famous chef, and Jennie is baking you whoopie pies for a post-lunch treat, and all of these things are free. We suggest you do it (sign up here; they actually need to charge you to add you to their signup system, but it only costs a penny).
I hope we’ll see you there.
Background. We have met with the Director of the Gan Menachem preschool at the Lori Schottenstein Chabad Center in New Albany to talk about school gardens. His goal is to start a garden for the preschool and then move it into a focal point to enrich the center, the programs they run, and the community at large.
State of Project Development. Planning stages.
What We Have. The Director has implemented much of the planning, and the school will supply necessary material.
What We Need. Volunteers for work parties to put the garden in place. Please email the committee chair directly to volunteer.
Background. The U.S. Ark of Taste, like its counterpart in Italy, is a catalog of hundreds of delicious foods that have been deemphasized by the industrialized food system to the point that they are little-known and rarely consumed, even in the regions in which they are produced. A significant part of our mission is to find and nominate new products from central Ohio to the Ark of Taste. We also seek to help farmers, grocers, and restaurants promote the Ark of Taste products that they sell by offering versions of the Slow Food Ark of Taste logo for use on signs and menus.
We are interested both in reaching producers who grow existing Ark products and soliciting suggestions for new Ark products. Candidates for the Ark should have production that is confined to a specific geographic area (i.e., should convey a “sense of place”), should be delicious, and should be produced sustainably.
State of Project Development. Ongoing.
What We Have. An entire Committee of Slow Food Columbus is devoted to biodiversity, which primarily involves Ark of Taste products. Slow Food USA has also created downloadable Farmer’s Market signs to help farmers promote their Ark of Taste products.
What We Need.
- Help spreading the word. Please send a link to this blog post to any farmers or chefs you know who might be using Ark of Taste products, and send email to the Biodiversity Committee directly if you would like additional signage.
- Ideas for the Ark of Taste. If you nominate new products by leaving a comment below, we will explore them and submit a formal application to Slow Food USA.
Background. We started the Slow Food Columbus blog using Apple’s iWeb software, but given the impending disappearance of MobileMe, it seems that iWeb will likely be phased out as well. Moreover, iWeb lacks the capacity to generate mobile-friendly websites. Our webmaster has attempted to convert the iWeb site to WordPress, so that the site can be hosted in the cloud (and passed along to future webmasters), but iWeb seems not to be generating the RSS feed necessary for the easiest version of the transition. He has attempted to generate an RSS feed from the iWeb site without success.
State of Project Development. Stalled.
What We Have. One website, written in iWeb, and a hosting service (Dreamhost) that can perform one-click installation of WordPress and other blog engines.
What We Need. Competent, experienced website designers or programmers who can transition our current blog to a new, web-based format, ideally WordPress. Please email the webmaster directly with information.