By 11:50 a.m. Wednesday, a line of hungry patrons winds through the hall, up the stairs and out the door of The Crossing Campus Ministry on University Ave. On the menu this week: homemade pan pizza, kale Caesar salad and old-fashioned apple cobbler — all for just $8 a plate.
Welcome to Slow Food UW, a student-run nonprofit organization committed to providing good, clean and fair food to the Madison community.
Founded in 2007 as a small way to bring local Wisconsin cultures to campus, Slow Food has grown into a vibrant dining hall with a team of over 50 students, staff, from chefs to cashiers to interns and everything in between.
“We just like to make everyone happy with our food,” said Graham Stigler, co-director of Slow Food.
Slow Food welcomes hundreds of guests to The Crossing each week for their “Family Dinners” on Mondays and their lunches in the cafeteria on Wednesdays. Looking to foster a community around their food, they created their dining room with dozens of connected tables, encouraging their guests to make new friends while eating.
On Monday, October 23, the organization served 116 smiling customers at a family dinner, their largest crowd this semester.
“It’s really fun to see people meet someone new because they happened to be sitting next to each other at our family dinner,” Stigler said.
The kitchen staff, a team of five to 10 people, creates unique and “modern” menus each week based on the produce shipments they receive from local farms. Additional ingredients are sourced from Willy Street Co-op, a local natural foods co-op in Madison. Once the week’s recipe list is finalized, the team begins preparations on Sundays and Tuesdays, 24 hours before the meal.
According to Celeste Kim, co-director and former cafe director, working in the kitchen is one of the best parts of being involved with Slow Food. Kim and the rest of the kitchen staff see it as a creative outlet, often working together on recipes or coming up with menu items on the fly.
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“There’s something special about being in that kitchen,” Kim said. “Cooking with your friends, listening to music and connecting with food; it’s just magical.”
Slow Food explores several cuisines each week. Recently, lunch and dinner guests enjoyed Kenyan-inspired stew and flatbread, pumpkin soup and freshly baked soft pretzels. For Halloween week, Slow Food is serving up “ghostly” cauliflower wings on Monday and vodka pasta on Wednesday.
The food is the star of the show for new visitors and onlookers. But the community is the main draw for repeat guests.
“Seeing the happy environment that it cultivates always leaves an impact on me,” Kim said. “I come here every week just so I can see that.”
Despite being located in the heart of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Slow Food likes to emphasize that their doors — and their community — are open to everyone.
“If you ever have the opportunity to have dinner at Slow Food, you know how amazing the people are,” said UW-Madison senior intern and fundraising intern Megan Keefe. “Being able to meet your peers and eat a great meal is what makes Slow Food what it is, a place for everyone.”
Ultimately, the organization aims to combat food insecurity and inequality in the Madison area, a problem they say often goes unrecognized. Slow Food supports local and sustainable food production by collaborating with other student organizations and promoting social justice efforts in the Madison area.
All meals, whether you get just a side or “the works,” are under $10, and the organization has a “no questions asked” policy when it comes to accessibility issues. They believe that nutritious, delicious food should be available to everyone.
“That’s what we’re here for,” Kim said. “If you are hungry, you must eat. We are here to provide it for you.”
Slow Food hosts their family dinners at The Crossing every Monday from 6.30pm to 8.30pm and lunches in their cafe every Wednesday from 12pm to 2pm Everyone is welcome, whatever the circumstances.
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