Lunch Line: Battle for Child Nutrition

Super Chef attended a screening of the new documentary from Uji Films, Lunch Line. The documentary, now in screenings around the country awaiting a distribution deal, covers the history of the school lunch program and the issues facing school lunch reform.

Ernie Park and Michael Graziano, the filmmakers of Lunch Line, insist that they are presenting the issues, not the solution. And yet, the solution, or at least part of it, is in their film.

In between footage of senators, congressmen and presidents, the filmmakers follow a group of teens from Tilden Career Academy, a Chicago inner city school, who have won a competition to make a school lunch for $1 a plate run by Cook Up Change. They come to Washington DC to make their lunch for representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Two words for Washington: “Hire THEM!”

Those kids look like they would appreciate jobs when they graduate — or while they are finishing school, for that matter. The point is, if those high school kids can make good-tasting, healthy lunches for $1 per portion, then why haven’t professionals been doing that in our schools up to now?

One of the Tilden students talks about the Twilight/New Moon series and how vampires and werewolves work together. The filmmakers turn the politicians into cartoon vampires and werewolves. The vampires (Republicans) want the program in the Department of Agriculture. The werewolves (Democrats) want it in the Department of Education. They argue back and forth about its merits, and after school lunch is passed, more werewolves and vampires argue about getting free lunch to needy children. Finally, they argue about how to make the lunch healthier.

The point is that they have to work together to solve the problems in the system: the fact that the program is stuck in USDA is the biggest hurdle and the hardest to the solve.

Lunch Line focuses on policy makers, as well as a few programs that have sought to improve school lunches, like Ann Cooper‘s Berkeley program, and the Organic School Program in another school in Chicago.

As for celebrity chefs, other than Jamie Oliver, they are not discussed.

Super Chef asked Ernie Park about the role of celebrity chefs. He told us:

Celebrity chefs sometimes dominate. We know Jamie Oliver had a season on TV. We wanted to give a voice to others.

Lunch Line gives the issues a strong voice, one that will appeal to younger audiences. Galvanizing students’ energy, the ultimate consumers of school lunches, might just lead to real change.

Previous Articles:
Jamie Oliver in Dubai
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution: Los Angeles
Jamie Oliver Effect: Cranswick
Jamie Oliver: Asia Needs You”
Jamie Oliver: Junk Food Be Cursed
Jamie Oliver’s New Year: School Lunch
Jamie Oliver: School Lunch

5 comments on “Lunch Line: Battle for Child Nutrition
  1. You’re right, it’s exactly about working together to solve the problems in the system. Movie goers ranged from Rochelle Davis from the Healthy Schools Campaign and Janey Thornton the USDA Undersecretary to Rana Koll-Mandel a local food systems advocate and Cindy Walsh a mother of an autistic child. New alliances formed before our eyes all in the name of helping feed America’s children healthier school food. Magic! Renee and the Applegate Farms Crew

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