F&M Stories

Student Explores Food in Italian Slow-Food Culture

Franklin & Marshall College senior Jonathan Izzo combined his twin passions for his family’s Italian heritage and for sustainable food systems to cap his academic career.

 The environmental studies major and Italian minor spent the spring semester of his junior year studying in Perugia, Italy.

 “I was volunteering at a local urban garden, but for the most part, it was an educational program looking around Italy at sustainable food systems that exist there,” Izzo says. “We went to the region of Emilia-Romagna and looked at how they made Parmigiano Reggiano, a type of parmesan cheese, and we got to try all the different varieties and to see how the specific cheeses are made with the specific cows in a specific region.”

He examined an urban garden in Bologna, and visited restaurants with slow-food practices.

“They’re sourcing a lot of their food from local farmers,” he says. “I got to see what’s normal there for food compared to what we have in the United States, which is sometimes industrialized and large-scale; it’s harder to access organic, healthy produce here.”

As he winds down his weeks before graduating, Izzo, who is considering a career in sustainable food systems, is busy compiling his research into a 20-page thesis, written in Italian, about what he learned in Italy and in the U.S.

“My thesis is about the slow-food movement, looking into sustainable, traditional practices like preserving traditional culture of food practices,” he says.

Izzo grew up in Pittsburgh’s suburbs, where his great grandfather immigrated from Naples, and is considering post-graduate options—from working in environmental policy at a national nonprofit to a fellowship in Italy on culture and food.

“To spend more time there,” he says, “but also learn more specifically about what they’re doing to create this more sustainable food system and make the cultural connections they have to the land.”

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