Slow Food Denver Offers Microgrants to Local Food Organizations

Slow Food USA is about more than just cooking and enjoying good food while decrying the downfalls of the average American diet. According to Krista Roberts, director of Slow Food Denver, the organization is committed to "good, clean, and fair food." As part of that mission, the organization created C.A.F.E. (community, art, food and education) four years ago to provide support and funding to local food-based organizations. Slow Food Denver has teamed with Chipotle and Grow Local Colorado to select three organizations to receive microgrants at a dinner to be held at Harman's Eat and Drink in Cherry Creek North on Monday, September 8.

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Hannah Loudin, general manager at Harman's, says chef John Little is planning a menu based on produce available from local farms currently partnered with Slow Food Denver. She adds that Harman's -- and owner Mark Fischer -- enjoys "encouraging like-minded people," one reason the restaurant is hosting the dinner.

The Slow Food movement began in Italy in 1986 when demonstrators gathered to protest a proposed McDonald's at Rome's historic Spanish Steps. Many early mentions of the group in the U.S. media centered more on cooking and eating good food, giving Americans the impression of Italians concerned more about "la dolce vita" than more pressing concerns like food security and industrial food production. Slow Food Denver, as part of the overarching Slow Food USA and Slow Food International groups, takes these issues seriously as part of its commitment "to create a more just and sustainable food system," as the organization's mission states.

The group's microgrant program has given away $12,000 over the past three years to local groups involved with sustainable food education and production, and they plan to give $3,000 more to three groups who will make presentations at the upcoming dinner at Harman's. Roberts says the organization began accepting applications in the spring; Grow Local and Chipotle helped narrow the field down to three candidates -- Sunshine Food Project, GreenLeaf and Sprout City Farm -- who will receive grants of $3,000, $1,500 and $500 based on votes cast by guests at the dinner.

Previous winners include Growing Colorado Kids, an organization that works with refugee kids from many countries to build leadership and teamwork skills by gardening and cooking with healthy ingredients. This year's finalists cover Denver community issues like food availability in "food desert" neighborhoods, sustainable urban farming and community involvement in food production.

Tickets to the dinner are $65 per person, which includes tax, gratuity and a $40 donation to the program. Guests will be treated to a cocktail reception and a three-course dinner with wine pairings from chef John Little's kitchen. Tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite. Roberts says Slow Food Denver partners with restaurants that share the organization's values; past dinners have been held at Linger and Beast + Bottle. One more C.A.F.E dinner will be held this year, although the location has not been selected yet. Check the Slow Food Denver website for future events and dinners.

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