Friday, September 7, 2012

Meet Alyssa Neill: President of Slow Foods URI

Ladies and Gentleman of the Freshmen Class of 2016, please stop all that you are doing to close your eyes and imagine the last time you ate something orgasmic? Can you? If you answered, “yeah dude, my Oreo cookie,” please know that you are in for a treat!

I'm a third year nutrition and dietetics student on track to get my RD. I cook too much. I enjoy running, doing heated power yoga, and riding my bike as much as possible. Oh, and I love to eat. Here's the thing: I only eat food with integrity—food that tastes good, is grown near my home in a sustainable environment, and benefits those who grew it. I've been part of Slow Food URI for four semesters, serving as the president for half of them.

So, back to the treat I promised you all! Every Tuesday, from September 11th (yes, that’s right—starting THIS Tuesday!) until October 30th, 11:00am to 3:00pm, Slow Food URI is hosting a Local Food Market on the Quad (You know, that big field at the center of the campus. Yes, that one!). At the market, Rhode Island's best vendors will be selling tacos, wood fired pizza, sustainably harvested cold brewed coffee, fresh baked breads and pastries, apples, tomatoes and corn, plus lots of other LOCAL specialties. SO, bring some cash, a friend, and your appetite and let Slow Food URI serve you some mind-blowing treats.

If you're interested in Slow Food URI there are a whole lot of ways you can get in touch with us: Follow us on Twitter @SlowFoodURI, email us at, come introduce yourself on Tuesday at the market or email me at

Hope to see you all on the quad!

Oh, and here’s Slow Food USA's news story about URI’s Farmers Market:

“One Secret to Community Building: Really Good Street Food”
By Deirdra Stockmann, formerly of Slow Food Huron Valley (MI)

Slow Food URI Farmers Market

What does it take to grow a small Slow Food on Campus chapter into the go-to organization for all things local food-related at the university? In the case of Slow Food University of Rhode Island, it takes dedicated, energetic student leaders who make the most of partnership opportunities, and who know the way to college students’ hearts: really good street food.

Alyssa Neill is passionate about food. As a teenager, she kept a garden and chickens in her backyard and worked at a health food store in her hometown. A rising college junior and nutrition and dietetics major, Neill hopes to put food at the center of her career. “I believe that food is medicine,” she said in a recent interview squeezed in between final exams and term papers. Through her work, she wants to help others celebrate the pleasure and healing powers of good food.

When Neill enrolled at the University of Rhode Island in 2010, she was thrilled to learn that the campus had a Slow Food chapter. She was familiar with Slow Food’s mission and eager to join the movement. But upon arriving at a Slow Food URI meeting, she was disappointed to find it a small organization with low visibility on campus. The few events they planned each semester were sparsely attended.

Neill continued to attend the meetings. Soon, she was planning them. Today, she is the president of the chapter. Over the last two years, Neill and a growing group of Slow Food URI leaders have worked to raise awareness and enthusiasm for local and sustainable food across campus. “This year has been really exciting as people start to recognize who Slow Food is, we've gotten a good response from the whole campus community. People email and ask about how they can get involved.” This spring, the faculty coordinators of a high profile honors colloquium on campus approached Slow Food URI about partnering on a weekly series of events in the coming fall.

How did this transformation come about in a couple of years? The student group started a garden on campus where they host occasional grilled pizza parties and they organize a food and sustainability film series. These events attract a few dozen participants each. But one event in the fall of 2011 catapulted Slow Food URI to a new level of campus visibility.

The big break came with the opportunity, and the responsibility, to organize a one-day local food fair as part of a “sustainability module” based on the book No Impact Man. The book, written by Colin Beavan, was selected as the “common reading” assignment for first year students. In conjunction with the book, an interdisciplinary committee of students, faculty and staff planned seven weeks of films, lectures, tours and fairs for students to further explore many dimensions of environmentally sustainable living.

Slow Food URI

Slow Food URI organized the local food fair during Local Food and Agriculture Awareness week. Neill sent out dozens of emails and visited area farmers markets to recruit vendors to the local food fair. It took a lot of time and a lot of patience. Only a handful of vendors were willing to take the risk and time to do a one-day, first time event. Tallulah’s “farm to taco” mobile cart and Bravo Wood Fired Pizza anchored the food fair. Both vendors feature vegetables, meat and dairy from Rhode Island farmers and artisans. Their enthusiasm, willingness to work with students, and delicious food made the event a hit.

Word traveled fast around campus about the delicious tacos and baked-on-site pizza available on the Quad. In a few hours, the vendors sold out. “We saw food do exactly what it is supposed to do, create community and awareness,” Neill said, noting that the enthusiastic response of the students was her favorite part of the event. Bringing local food to campus in well-prepared, ready-to-eat form was just the way to lure students, many of whom don’t have cooking facilities or refrigerators in their dorm rooms.

The fair was such a success that the Slow Food URI leaders were encouraged to establish a more regular local food market on campus. This past spring, they organized several events featuring the popular taco, pizza and coffee vendors, as well as a few farmers selling fresh microgreens and mushrooms. The produce offerings attracted more staff and faculty to the market. One professor requested that the event become weekly so he could do most of his produce shopping there. Through the market, Neill said, “we're introducing students to the local food movement, whereas with the staff, we're encouraging a behavior that they already do or would like to do.” The market has begun to attract the off-campus community as well. One day, a local elementary school made a field trip out of it; 100 kids enjoyed their picnic lunches on the URI Quad while college students lined up for tacos and pizza.

Many more farmers will sell a wider variety of fresh produce at Slow Food URI markets this fall. The group will coordinate the markets with the honors colloquium, a weekly public lecture series. This year’s colloquium theme is Health Care Change? Health, Politics and Money. “We wanted the Farmer's Markets to be held on the same day as the Colloquium to extend the themes into the entire day. We are hoping that some of the vendors from the Market will supply us with healthy refreshments for the evening instead of the usual cookies,” nursing professor Mary Cloud said.

The partnership with the colloquium will help address one of the main challenges Slow Food URI faced this year: publicity. Organizing farmers markets is a lot of work, especially on top of full-time student responsibilities, and the small organization found it difficult to get the word out about the markets on campus let alone in the surrounding residential community. In exchange for the Slow Food chapter organizing markets on lecture nights, the honors colloquium will include the markets in their broad public promotion.

Working with the Slow Food URI farmers market has helped Alyssa Neill think about life after college: “I have always been interested in nutrition, but I guess my idea of what nutrition is has definitely morphed as far as the time I have put into the markets and watching people eat and watching people react to different kinds of foods. … Watching people come together around local food has inspired me to want to study a holistic diet and food cultures.”

As a Slow Food USA chapter, Slow Food University of Rhode Island provides opportunities for neighbors and citizens to build community through enjoyment of and dialogue about our food system and culture. As a Slow Food on Campus chapter, the URI group goes beyond, it creates transformative opportunities for young leaders to shape their future, and ours.


Lyndsey SUpernault said...

I feel the mountains refers to obstacles and the mountains in our society are the economy. So many people have trouble surviving theses days because food and clothes are so expencive. There is even sales tax on our clothes. The mountains beyond those mountains I feel is the government. They pass laws and get us in the worl wide situation that we are in with the high prices. I most relate to Paul Farmer. The reason why is I love to help people out. I also admire him most because he is a hero in my eyes. He trys his hardest to help everyone he can. He is an insirational person and has really good morals and values. No I would never model my life after Farmer, it would be really challenging. The main reson why is because he spends way to much time away from his family. Family in my life is my number one priority. My family means a lot to me and I love spending time with them. The connections are that Paul Farmer Knows he has to make a change and helping all of these people consumes a passion within him. Just okay is not enough like the song says. Paul Farmer wants to help everyone who is sick and ill.

Anonymous said...

The mountains do refer to obstacles and in my opinion, mountains are nothing but a big hill. If you take your time and take one step at a time, sooner or later you'll find yourself at the other side of the mountain. The economy however is very bad, and we are the future generation that is going to be feel the impact if nothing happens. I think that everyone should start growing a plant. Any type of plant.
- Jin Zhang

Anonymous said...

Jin, you definitely should stop by the Farmers Market and meet Alyssa Neill, president of Slow Foods. There are plenty of groups on campus that can help you fulfill your mission that everyone should start growing a plant.

Anonymous said...

Hello. So I went to the Tracy Kidder lecture on Tuesday and I thought it was pretty interesting. He made his book seem a lot more interesting than it is by showing a lot of pictures and describing the scenery. I thought he was pretty nervous in the beginning because he was mumbling and stuttering a little bit. At times he was boring and lost my attention a couple of times. My favorite part of the lecture was when he described an eleven year old boy named Alcante in Haiti. Alcante had tuberculosis and was skin and bones before he had any treatments, after his treatments he looked healthier. Another cool part of his presentation was the question and answer session; Kidder let us text questions to him and was posted on the big screen. He answered most of his questions, but one question he didn’t answer which was where Dr. Farmer is today. Kidder replied he doesn’t know where he is, I mean he should at least know what his new project is or if he is still in Haiti. I thought the lecture wasn’t too long, it was a perfect amount of time to speak.

tcroix94 said...

Hey everyone my name is Thomas LaCroix so I just finished reading the nivel and cant help but recognize how amazing Paul Farmer truly is. He saved thousands of life in order to better the world and not himself. I knew that he was quite an influential figure when my professor Doctor Husband quoted him during a lecture. I believe that his greatest work throughout his life was his organization that he started in a one room apartment, Partners In Health (PIH). Although it was a bit of a slow read it was interesting and insightful into the mainly problems that the world now has.

Anonymous said...

Tyler Plante
September 13, 2012
Nursing/Pharmacy Major w/ a Minor in Leadership
Grad date is approximately 2022, 10 years.
Want to have a Phd for Nurse Practitioner, and a Phd for a Compounding Pharmasist
1) My overall impression of the book was interesting to me.  For one I love the medical part of the book, because that was the only thing interesting to me in the first place.  I always have an interest in reading books that involve intense description on injuries, or medical surgeries or mental/genetic problems.  But to say over all about the book was that it was mind opening.  To know that there is a few to no hospitals surrounded in Haiti because they either don't have the money or the labor to do so.  I was very discouraged to know that they have young children working in factories, or that millions of people dying of illness because they can't reach a hospital or they don't have money to pay for the medicine or the insurance. 

2) What surprised me the most is that the rich is not helping the poor.  The poor live in horrible conditions like living in a river bed that a dam that blocks off the water and once the dam over flowed every one lost their gardens, and houses, and their supplies.  They had to move and live on the hills.  What also surprised me that none of the children had shoes, I was like crying because it hurts to know that other people are trying to fight for food, and trying to just live with bare minimum.  I was surprised also that the rich wouldn't help, that the U.S. like California paid for the new hospital to be built in Cange (if that is right, it has been awhile since I reviewed the book).  It makes me mad that the rich isn't helping, and it is the same way over here.  We have tons and tons of rich people that don't want to spend the time or money to help out the poor, the homeless or the sick because they are greedy and don't have a care in the world that there are people out there that need help.  Once I get my two jobs as a Compounding Pharmacist, and a Nurse Practitioner, I am going to try and help other countries less fortunate, so that they can have the medication, the support, and the supplies to live healthy and strive to go to college where ever they want.  It hit me that to know that most of the children don't even have a school to go to in Haiti,  they did build a school but it was too small to have all the children fit, then they added an extra story on top but what was weird was that the school was built on a hill.  (So how sound do you think that will last until everything comes tumbling down.) I loved the idea that they had to teach people on health care so they get more people knowledgeable to help and work in the medical field to decrease illness. 

Anonymous said...

Tyler Plante continued
3) Added insight on the book from my other blog.
I firstly wanted to stay that this book was amazing, I love the medical aspect of the book because I love learning more about diseases and how they are treated or what they do to help the patients.  I ended up watching Tracy Kidder's performance on my laptop at 7:30 to get insight on what the book was and what it meant to him and society.  I noticed about Tracy as he spoke that he was very nervous, he stuttered, and couldn't stop saying the word ummm....because he like forgot what he was going to say most of the time or that he was trying to explain and didn't know what to say.  What interested me was that Tracy wrote about four books, this being his major book that changed his view on life.  When he met Paul Farmer he was shocked to see all the misery and hurt that Paul was faced with.  He was also a vet. from war, and is giving donations to the found called PIH.

So to get back to the story, I was surprised to know what the title actually meant, I had a basic idea, like problems on problems, but it means that when current problems are dealt with then future problems occur.  I loved how Paul is doing everything to help the poorest country Haiti, get the best health care from have few to none to have this brand new building just built, called Hopita Universitaire de Mriebalais (HUM) but not open at the moment.  Haiti is the worst poverty place on earth to live, but still the Hations strive to live better in their way, and try their very best to stay clean.  As Paul Farmer goes through this wonderful, but awful experiences from his childhood to helping Haiti get better living communities, lots and lots of working health clinics in Canuge, and several other cities in Haiti.  Once the flood happened in everything went to Hell because they lost everything, their food, homes, and animals.  Now he is still helping build new homes in Haiti, new hospitals, better health care, and a safer environment for the Hations to live.  With the help of PIH and his donations.  

What I like about him is that he grew up in a poor situation, living out of something like a moving camp and he had nothing owned to his name.  He went to school, got a full scholarship to Harvard and called the Duke scholarship, then he graduated top of his premedical class.  Just like him, I grew up in a poor situation, having nothing to little to my name.  As of now I am fighting to just get the right or close medication that I need to survive But just that cost of co-pays, and any other pays that the insurance doesn't pay.  So I end up getting none of the meds that I need to help me live better. So I fight and fight to not get meds that cost anything but that is one of several reasons why I am going to be a Nurse Practitioner, and a Compounding Pharmacist.  I want help as much as I can the people so that they don't go through what I am going through at this very moment.  So I am going to try my very best to help everyone, even out of this country to live better they way I should be living.  To give them the happy life style they deserve to live.

Jake Oelbaum said...

Mountains beyond mountains provides a multicultural background to the persons read it just as slow food brings that culture to uri. it is always a good think when more than just the normal culture is present in a community.

Anonymous said...

After reading Mountains Beyond Mountains I felt like the few community service activities that I participate in are not enough. Paul Farmer is an icon and his actions should be the very definition of what a humaitarian is. He worked in the worst conditions possible for years trying to help people who were often too uneducated to realize they needed medical attention and instead chalked their symptoms up to a voodoo spell. Not only was he understaffed and lacked proper equipment he also took it upon himself to establish schools to promote public education. He cut every corner possible to ensure that every patient would have little to no money owed in medical bills. Farmers operations were backed by fund raises and charitable donations. It is amazing how far he could make a dollar stretch to cover the costs of running a medical complex charged with ensuring the health of an entire country. Not only that but he was simultaneously getting his degrees from Harvard med school while in Haiti! Dr. Farmer also took on a whole new challenge in Peru where a strand of T.B began to spread that was not treatable by first line drugs. This epedimic is under control thanks in large part to a single mans determination to help the world. This book shows that one person can truly make a difference.

Shinbey Moua said...

Mountains Beyond Mountains is a novel that revolves around the life of Dr. Paul Farmer and his experiences.
After finishing this novel, I felt kind of bad for many developing countries since they only have little to no access to medicinal facilities (hospitals, etc). I feel that as an American, we take hospitals for granted and do not really appreciate it as much until we see the struggle that other countries face.
Nonetheless, Dr. Paul Farmer's dedication to help the less fortunate is very notable and heroic in a way.
In the book Farmer explains about the challenges of balancing meetings, raising money, politics, and direct care. And, certainly, his family and personal relationships suffered. But, Farmer did not seem to mind it at all. As long as he was helping the poor then it as worth it.
I personally thought the book was inspiring. Farmer traveled to Haiti, Peru, Russia, and he even founded the organization Partners in health.I personally think that his drive to help people is very inspiring even enough to make other people take the initiative to help.

Anonymous said...

As I began to watch Mr. Kidder, the first thought that sprang to the front of my mind was "I wish that someone different had written the book." Not to take away from the mere extravagance of Dr. Farmer's work and dedication, I simply could not bare to see it presented in a shaky and monotonous fashion. I do believe that Kidder is a great writer I just feel as though the novel itself would have been slightly more captivating if in the hands of a formidable storyteller.
Once Mr. Kiddler began to settle down I did appreciate the fact that he was accepting questions via text message. I was glad to see him elaborate on untouched topics and a few areas of the book that were unclear. As someone above or below me mentioned, I too was a little disappointed to hear that he was not sure where Dr. Paul Farmer was.
All in all, I was very pleased to be exposed to such a powerful story. The fact that one person could have such an impact on a group of people is incredibly inspiring and shows how much a human being can achieve. There is greatness in all of us. Our goal must be to find and exploit this greatness.

- Michael Anzalone URI101 (114)

Will Allegretto said...

Looking back on Tracy Kidder's lecture I feel as though I have a far deeper understanding of Mountains Beyond Mountains, even though it was a little boring at times. I am amazed that Paul Farmer, someone with such humble beginnings, could go on to help the world and do something that really matters. It truly does take someone with selfless dedication to really make an impact in this world. Overall I thought Kidder's lecture was very informative and I especially enjoyed the question and answer session at the end, especially because he was being asked them on the spot as opposed to answering pre-written questions.

Sydney Duquette said...

A major problem in this world is the economy, and that's what I think the mountains in this book are referring to. Without money, people and companies can't afford to give out jobs, and therefore there is a shortage of employment in this world, leaving a lot of people hungry and without the necessities needed to live. Poverty and hunger seems to be a bigger problem in foreign countries than anywhere else, and you see on the news and in magazines and newspapers all the time about starving kids, that die everyday. When I was a senior in high school a company came in to one of my classes and introduced us to the product called "Plumpy Nut". It is basically a peanut butter paste, with all of the necessary vitamins and minerals you need to live mixed in. The product was made just for children in foreign countries, and if you eat 3 packages a week, within a month the child will have gained back all the weight they had lost to starvation, and they will be healthy again. When this woman came into my classroom, I was very happy to hear that they had a supplement like this for all of the starving children, and that it was giving all of them a chance to live.

Brendan Goff said...

I believe that local farmers markets are a great thing not only for URI, but for the many counties around the country that hold them. The Slow Food program will bring students a healthy alternative to the greasy and frozen foods that we are fed from our dining halls. This program is also a great stimulant for the local economy. It also brings the names of local farmers and food companies out into the open to get publicity. This makes a great comparison to the book Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. Three main problems that are presented in this book about Haiti are the extremely poor health environment, the fact that there is very low funding for health clinics in Haiti, and that many people couldn't even find Haiti on a map rather than contribute to solving some of their problems. The healthy foods sold at these farmers markets such as vegetables grown locally, are much healthier unlike the ones shipped from places like California that are pumped with preservatives so they wont expire while being imported here. If there were more programs like this in Haiti then there would be an inclination for more Haitians to grown their own food, which would seriously help with the ever growing concerns about starving, hungry children because food would become more available to all, rather than food they import. This would also help stimulate Haiti's economy. Many of Haiti's problems start with their financial situation. Kidder goes threw this financial situation very thoroughly in his book, explaining that Dr. Farmer payes for his clinic almost entirely out of pocket just because the funding for it is just not there. I think that if the local farmers started to actually produce crops that can be sold locally to all of the families for a low price than the families will be able to eat cheap, while the money used by the farmers can go into a proper health situation. If the economy continues to be stimulated by these growing farms, than more jobs would also be created for those starving haitians creating a financial cycle that benefits all who are involved. These farmer markets would also help to bring those farmers names out there into the public talk of Haiti, which would of coarse spark more business for them., but it'd bring more attention to the problems of Haiti. Any publicity that is brought to the public about a problem is good for the problem, because it brings more people, more creative minds in to try to solve the problem. That is why i think that farmers markets are good everywhere they are held, and i believe that if there were more of these in Haiti, than they could be a start to Haiti's health, and financial problems, and could bring these problems into the public. -Brendan Goff

Search This Blog