The fourth annual Slow Food Nations festival was scheduled to take place in downtown Denver September 11 through 13, but Slow Food USA, the hosting nonprofit organization, announced last week that the event is officially canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis. There is no word yet as to whether Slow Food Nations will return to Denver in 2021.
In a typical year, more than 30,000 chefs, activists, authors, farmers, and foodies would have gathered in and around Larimer Square to learn about and discuss the culinary and societal issues affecting people and our planet. Colorado chefs and producers were a major part of that discussion, bringing their prodigious talents and the bounty of the Centennial State to the weekend-long event through seminars, tastings, and myriad parties and dinners. “We had to factor in what’s happening right now with all the people without whom the festival couldn’t happen,” says Krista Roberts, Slow Food Nations’ executive director. “That means all of the chefs, farmers, and partners going through such uncertainty right now, as well as our supporting sponsors, who we rely on so heavily.”
Instead, for now, Slow Food USA is focusing on rallying its community at large through Slow Food Live, a free virtual skill-share series. Multiple times each week, national culinary leaders teach anyone with a digital device and an internet connection across a wealth of topics, from making zero-waste minestrone (led last month by chef Eric Lee of Acreage) to growing microgreens at home (taught by Roberto Meza of Emerald Gardens in Bennett). You can access the online sessions live or watch the recorded versions at your leisure; on May 15, the team from Denver-based Teatulia will lead a beginners’ kombucha workshop.
The organization has also created a National Resilience Fund to provide direct financial support to American businesses working in the community-based food space. 150 Slow Food chapters and organization partners across the country will help channel the funds to the local producers, chefs, and activists aligned with the nonprofit’s mission of increasing food access for vulnerable communities and food chain sustainability. Funds are also open to businesses that have been unable to get enough support from city, state, and federal governments. Priority will be given to endeavors that support people of color and women.
There are changes taking place within the Slow Foods organization, too, as Slow Food Nations festival director and Denver chapter director Krista Roberts steps down from her role. “I’ll never really leave Slow Food,” Roberts says, “It’s so important to me. But while all change is hard and sad, it’s also exciting to see what might come next.”
Hannah Keitel, who previously served as Slow Food Denver’s programs and outreach manager, has stepped into the role of director for the local chapter. “This is an uncertain time, but one thing that’s very certain is that Slow Food is more important now than ever before,” Keitel says. “Slow Food Denver will maintain our current programming around youth education and empowerment, supporting local traditions and food producers, and connecting growers and eaters. And going forward, we will develop new programming to strengthen our local and regional food systems.”