There is a shift in the focus of Slow Food International, instigated by Italy, and carried out in this country by a number of enthusiastic adherents.

Members were invited to a meeting on 26 January 2018, where these changes were set out.

At the request of the committee, several members who attended the meeting gave their feedback. This was discussed by the committee, who came up with the following conclusions. These are followed by a selection of the feedback submitted by members.

What happens next?
Our thanks to all who attended the Slow Food meeting on 29th January 2018. Their feedback and valuable commentary which we attach, has informed the committee’s decision to put forward the following proposals regarding the future of SF CT.

We begin with a reminder of the extract from the Slow Food International. The new ‘mission‘ statement’ came out last year, after the China conference.

Slow Food is a global grassroots organization that envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet. Slow Food involves over a million activists, chefs, experts, youth, farmers, fishers and academics in over 160 countries. A mong them, a network of around 100,000 Slow Food members are linked to 1,500 local chapters worldwide, contributing through their membership fee, as well as the events and campaigns they organize. As part of the network, more than 2,400 Terra Madre food communities practice small-scale and sustainable production of quality food around the world.

Our question is: does Slow Food Cape Town have a place in this scenario? In terms of structure, the title ‘convivium’ now falls away and instead there will be a coming together of like-minded individuals as ‘supporters of SF’. In a country, on a continent which is struggling to feed its people, the ‘lunch club’ image needs to change to reflect more inclusive and active support of the new manifesto.

However, little can be achieved without structure. Any group needs to organise itself and decide how to fund both its basic administration and activities. Slow Food Cape Town members have traditionally paid a membership fee, which, together with a mark-up on outings, covered running costs. Though membership fees can be said to exclude the disadvantaged sectors of the population, we have decided to continue with this practice while other groups are free to choose their own funding models. At the same time, we have a mailing list made up of individuals who are not paid-up members, and who are welcome to join us on our visits and outings.

The committee feels there is also no disconnect in continuing to do what we do within the new Slow Food model, ie organise informative talks and visits to food-related enterprises as well as sharing meals at which we come together to enjoy food ethically sourced and prepared.

However, we preach to the converted, and we could perhaps explore more active ways to publicise the SF movement. Many of the founding members of Slow Food Cape Town were food journalists who had access to the media and were able to publicise Slow Food activities in Cape Town. Activism is high energy stuff and we doubt our members have signed up for digging vegetable patches or waving placards. However, our collective experience could be mobilised to network and assist emergent farmers and producers. Rather than dig the trenches, we could identify a worthy cause and support it through fund-raising or mentorship. Introducing food production, nutrition, or cooking as subjects in schools would be a suitable cause. As you know, we have for some years made a donation to Peninsula School Feeding Association (PSFA) who are currently adapting their programme to the local drought. (Do go to:

The committee requires your input to help broaden the scope of what we do. We need suggestions of enterprises to be recognised for their endeavours, chefs who need to be acknowledged, and entrepreneurs who need wider support.

Our AGM will take place on a date still to be announced, sometime in May. Please use this occasion to submit suggestions for activities/topics you woul d like us to assess and explore. We’re also hoping for at least two new faces on the committee.

To return to our opening question ‘Does Slow Food Cape Town have anything to offer the ‘new look’ SF movement?’

If your answer is ‘Yes’, then renew your membership, and perhaps give one to a friend.

We’d also like to keep our wider mailing list active, as this includes supporters who are not fee-paying members. We’d be happy to retain this list, and grow it. We look forward to seeing you at our gatherings.

Submit your wish list to guide and encourage your committee to continue with our activities.


J. wrote:

I think that what they said makes a lot of sense in terms of many aspects


The idea of paid membership for things is a bit old world, these days its all open and welcoming and pay as you go, so while replacing the membership fee with a donation might not also work, the idea of us thinking of even just one annual event that would pay for the running of our support group (or whatever we will be called) would a) bring in the necessary funds to keep us going b) promote what slow food stands for to other people and c) give an opportunity to do something different. It makes me think of the street events or something that were held that they talked about at the AGM last year where they had guest chefs preparing different dishes etc. and then selling the food at a street party. Something like this would be really great and I think in Europe often festivals and things are held in the road as part of life, it would be great to do something like this here in Cape Town.
I realise that change is hard to accept but I also agree that it’s not the small fee that we pay each year that either really will change the world or create a huge difference, perhaps we can do more with a different approach.


I also think that in terms of us being in South Africa where ironically some of the poorest people live by the Slow food way and many smaller producers also follow this path, having a no charge membership and promoting suppliers etc. can only benefit everyone, rich and poor to find good food or an appreciative market.


We are in contact with a number of Chefs and suppliers that we could consider for forming one of the communities or however it will be done and we’d welcome getting involved in this in any way you feel would be beneficial.


I think you do a fantastic job of arranging the events and all the ones I’ve been to I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. Maybe we could consider stretching this out and promote to others as a way to generate funds and spread the knowledge?

M wrote:

I understand change is necessary to attract more "members", be more inclusive etc., however I believe that a flat structure works, if there is some formal hierarchy, to bring all of the "pockets" together.

As for membership fees. I believe the amount is minimal and the spend locally and internationally keeps the organisation healthy.

Good luck to all involved and will be interesting to see how the system pans out. Please keep us informed.

J wrote:

The meeting posed more questions than providing answers. Apparently the ‘parent’ body and others in the world face declining numbers and are looking for solutions to this problem. Enter our friends who decided that South Africa would lead the charge with a revolutionary new model - not being done anywhere else in the world! In Johannesburg and on the way down to Cape Town they took it upon themselves to anoint many new members to their expanded vision.

Their proposals seemed to me to be:

Change the name from Convivium (since nobody knows what this means!) to something like a loose partnership.

Drop all fees and rely instead on donations from members or solicit big money from companies.

Extend the scope of membership and activities to those vast numbers of eager producers, suppliers and restaurants, who by being recognised by Slow Food would suddenly flourish wonderfully.


A name change is irrelevant and does not in itself change the nature of the organisation (though one could argue that one must start by removing the signs of organisational colonialism!).

It is naïve to recommend discarding fees and then to embark on expanded services to include a complex new structure with large numbers of new members via new categories. The sophisticated website would require strong control and updating. The secretarial functions of keeping track of the envisaged new army of members and of maintaining communication would come at considerable cost. New structures and rules to manage them would be required. Committees and people are going to have to establish the vision of this loosely structured body. And if not satisfied with such a loose arrangement one has to go the whole hog and develop clear criteria for such recognition. A complex organisation requires sophisticated and costly infrastructure!

The vision of interesting and incorporating the vast numbers of subsistence producers whose only interest is to scrape together a bare living is even more naïve. Providing a label and allowing the use of the Slow Food approval simply cannot be done on the whim or fancy of a couple of people in each part of the country. For such recognition clear and strict criteria are required (and subsequent policing) otherwise the process is wide open for abuse and fraud. Our friends did not see the need for such rules and supervision.


There is no doubting the sincerity of the people leading this charge. However, their vision and proposals are all top down and do not encourage individual organisational differences. Furthermore their ideas, while idealistic, are woolly and could not be implemented sensibly without heavy new funding and complex new structures.

There is no copyright of the term ‘Slow Food’. I foresee the collapse of our group if we embrace these proposals as many members will resign. We have provided an excellent service to us ‘consumers’ (as we were labelled) and have had enthusiastic support from the suppliers that we have visited. Let’s continue as we are!

K wrote:

Thank you J. for a modicum of common sense! I heartily agree with your comments and left this week’s meeting confused, depressed and slightly irritated.

G wrote:

Some of the speakers from the floor were very idealistic/woolly and as soon as people start talking about visions and missions etc. I get irritated!

I am a very practical person and I like proper organisation and clear thoughts.
I think that the Slow Food organisation should produce a directory/guide to the various producers/products under various headings/categories i.e. veggies, cheese, bread, jams etc. and where they are to be found. Like the EAT OUT guide to restaurants.

The various producers will get the recognition if they want it but do not have to participate. The general public can make recommendations about their favourite products too.

Perhaps the money from our subs can be used for this purpose to get it started and once recognised it will grow.

We have a small, free advertisement booklet here in Hermanus which is used by electricians, plumbers, garden maintenance etc. to tell people what they do and the same thing would work for Slow Food producers too.

V wrote:

I agree in main with Js thoughts. However having said that I believe in change and growth forward. The comments made re crowd funding are interesting and maybe an open mind might be kept to a different way of finding finances/ covering costs. A proposal perhaps to the Cape Town membership saying operating costs are X can members at the start of the year donate to a holding account Y to cover those costs.

The current committee has done sterling work and it would be a great shame to see the founding group fold.

The meeting was confusing and I think heavy handed on the part of the presenters, I am also in agreement with K.`s thoughts on departure from the meeting.

J wrote:

Whilst I admire the enthusiasm of Brian and co, I’m always a bit sceptical about trying to ‘re-make’ a concept - especially one that has been going along for years... I do however feel that it would be beneficial to be more inclusive of those so-called marginal enterprises of gardeners and manufacturers, who could do with more recognition and support from the likes of Slow Food. Any changes would need to arise out of each enterprise, or community of enterprises though, as any ‘top-down’ suggestions wouldn’t be advisable.
I’d personally not start to change names and structures, but would rather get together an interested group of Slow Foodies who could make it their task to find and document all these enterprises, then arrange visits, suggest support etc. etc. And I’d keep the membership fee going, as there would be little incentive for random donations from members...

W wrote:

I agree whole heartedly with J’s thoughts - he expressed in writing what many of us were thinking at the time.

I too left the meeting confused and rather irritated at the rather idealistic and ‘pushy’ approach of the two presenters, albeit they were VERY enthusiastic about their visionary outlook!

As J wrote - their ideas were woolly with no structure to implement them.

I also don’t agree with doing away with members’ subscription fees which give members a sense of belonging and commitment to an organisation.

I said as much at the meeting but was silenced by the fact that I am now viewed as a member of the ‘older’ generation.

In my opinion, asking for donations will not fill the coffers and every organisation has general running costs.

People think their subscription should be used toward functions and their own personal enjoyment; however they forget the everyday costs of an organisation that need to be covered.

No matter how far technology has progressed - e.g. email communication instead of stationery and postage - and trying to keep things in a simple format, - bank charges alone are exorbitant! Changing the present format of Slow Food will be even more costly!

However, I think Slow Food should continue as previously - subscriptions from the members together with the enjoyment of outings.

Membership may decrease but view this as a common phenomenon in many social groups of today - and small groups have a more friendly ambience.

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