In the words of Serena Milano, Slow Food International seeks “to restore cultural dignity to food and those that produce and cook it.” Milano, General Secretary of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, has dedicated years of work to protecting biodiversity and the livelihoods of small-scale farmers.
The Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity is a nonprofit organization that operates a series of projects around the world defending traditional food cultures, promoting small-scale products, and providing Terra Madre communities with financial assistance. The Foundation reaches over 50 countries and works with over 10,000 food producers to promote sustainable and profitable agriculture.
The principal project of the Foundation is the Presidia, which is the Foundation’s effort to protect an endangered product which is culturally, environmentally, or nutritionally valuable to its local community. The Presidia seek to sustain unique ecosystems, maintain traditional production methods, and preserve artisan or local products. There are now over 300 Presidia all over the world that are seeking new local and international markets. The Foundation’s other projects include the Ark of Taste, a catalogue of endangered food products compiled by expert international researchers; Earth Markets, a worldwide network of farmers markets; and 10,000 Food Gardens in Africa, an effort to bring a steady supply of fresh, healthy food to a variety of African communities.
In addition to championing Slow Food’s task force defending local biodiversity, Milano co-authored A World of Presidia: Food, Culture, and Community. This compilation of Presidia stories highlights 65 traditional food artisans and the unique foods they are working to preserve. From Tibetan yak cheese to Cape May salt oysters, the foods presented in A World of Presidia represent the local communities who produce them and the struggle involved in keeping traditional food production alive.
Through her work with the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, Milano has directed considerable aid towards small-scale food producers worldwide and has also raised substantial awareness for the importance of traditional food cultures. Milano voices her concerns for dwindling artisanal food production in A World of Presidia and through public appearances at conferences and panels.
Milano believes that biodiversity is not only essential to the survival of traditional communities but to all communities: “Having a large variety of plant products grown is natural, now the world is becoming one culture. Without diversity, survival will be difficult in the case of a calamity such as climate change.”