When the Slow Food Movement tried to establish itself in Oxford more than a decade ago, the idea took hold for a little while then fizzled out. All those excursions to meet the food producers that were planned with such enthusiasm by the newly formed branch came to nothing and the members did very little to spread the word. But perhaps that was because the time was not right. Besides, getting excited about a political movement that has a snail as its mascot and a manifesto defending material pleasure takes some getting used to.

Slow Food was first established as a resistance movement against fast foods by the charismatic visionary Carlo Petrini. It all began in 1986 when McDonald's planned to build a restaurant in Rome. He was so outraged at the thought of McDonald's getting a foothold in his city that he organised a demonstration in which he and his followers brandished bowls of penne as weapons of protest. Soon after that, Petrini founded the International Slow Food Movement and issued a manifesto against fast food, fast life, non-sustainable farming and the eroding of local economies.

The movement has now expanded globally to 100 countries and now boasts more than 83,000 members. Each of the constituent groups, called 'convivia' - 360 in Italy and 450 in the rest of the world - has a leader who is responsible for promoting local artisans, local farmers and local flavours.

Look up the Slow Food website and you will discover it's philosophy which reads: "We believe that everyone has a fundamental right to pleasure and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture that makes this pleasure possible. Our movement is founded upon this concept of eco-gastronomy - a recognition of the strong connections between plate and planet.

"Slow Food is good, clean and fair food. We believe that the food we eat should taste good; that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health; and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work.

"We consider ourselves co-producers, not consumers, because by being informed about how our food is produced and actively supporting those who produce it, we become part of and a partner in the production process."

The founder Carlo Petrini advocates the importance of eating together as a social event, rather than eating on the run. He's convinced that convivially shared meals help build a cohesive society.

When the Slow Food Movement opened its UK office in Ludlow on December 4 last year, Petrini spoke of eating no longer being about love, but about consuming fuel and he derided a culture glued to prime-time celebrity chefs performing on television, while waiting for the microwave to ping.

Last year saw the beginnings of Slow Food Oxon, which has now attracted more than 70 members and the numbers are growing rapidly, particularly now the movement has started an initiative for students.

Thanks to a £1,000 Co-operative Community Dividend grant, Slow Food Oxford has been able to launch a new project that helps young people in the city learn how to replace fast food with produce that has had less impact on the environment and their health.

The grant will go towards food and equipment that can be used to hold cookery demonstrations for Oxford students in tertiary education. Selected students are being taken to fresh food outlets to learn about sourcing local food, which they are then taught to cook.

Oxford's Slow Food's leader, Tamara Schiopu, who also heads the Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Food Group, points out that the average UK university student spends just £29 a week on food, which works out at £4 a day.

"Can they spend so little and still eat well?" she asks.

Tamara is not the only one who is concerned about the way students eat. A recent article in The Oxford Student told of Oxford students following diets and lifestyles that promote depression, stress, anxiety and fatigue. Nearly half the student body say that in the university environment they have neither the time nor the money to remedy this, despite the fact experts say that the long-term effects could be irreversible if they don't act soon to counter their unhealthy habits. Last month, saw a group of students attending a fish cookery class at Oxford Brookes University, organised by Slow Food Oxford. Ted Maxwell, an Oxford Slow Food member, said that fish was a food generally avoided by students, but once the session got under way they began to think more positively about its worth.

"Once we'd been taken through the basics of fish purchasing by a local fishmonger in Oxford's Covered Market, we split into four groups to cook fish lasagne, fish pie, fish cakes and chowder," he said.

Although many within the group were cooking fish for the very first time, they all came away understanding how simple fish dishes can be and certainly enjoyed the fact that they were able to sit down and eat together at the end of the session.

Sarah Buy, of the Midcounties Co-operative - recently named the UK's third most generous retailer in a national report - said: "Many of the aims of Slow Food coincide with co-operative values - sourcing local produce and looking after the welfare of the Third World through Fairtrade. We are delighted to help them reach students who are sure to enjoy learning about the pleasures of food."

If you would like to attend one of the Slow Food sessions, designed for students by dedicated food-lovers who want to help undergraduates improve their diets without breaking the bank, go to www.slowfood-student.org.uk. If you would like to know more about Slow Food, you can go to www.slowfood.com or visit www.slowfood-oxon.org.uk