Education starts from the ground up


As nation-wide funding for school cafeterias rapidly decreases and high-calorie, low-nutrient meals have become order of the day, our nation's children are being afflicted by a slew of diet-based diseases from high-blood pressure and cholesterol to diabetes and obesity. In LUNCH, a revealing documentary short, director Avis Richards investigates the causes and the consequences of “growing up in a junk-food culture.” Through numerous on-site interviews with food workers, doctors, educators, and students, LUNCH provides a candid, penetrating, and disturbing account of the National School Lunch Program's failure to promote the proper dietary habits to ensure our youth's physical, social, and psychological well-being. The documentary also explores viable alternatives to the hamburger hegemony, talking with farmers and other community leaders about their efforts to put locally-grown, whole foods back on the menu and make diet and nutrition a core part of every school's educational model. LUNCH serves up an eye-opening account of a national crisis and its potential solutions, a film that should interest anyone concerned about the future of our students and our society.


LUNCH is a short documentary exploring the effects of the National School Lunch Program on America’s children today in schools and seeks to shed light on the current situation through candid interviews with doctors, teachers, farmers and various specialists.

The National School Lunch Program feeds some 28 Million children who eat 1 and sometimes 2 meals a day at school. Sadly the food that is served to them too often resembles fast food. The effects are far reaching.

Statistics have shown that kids today will have a lower life expectancy than their parents. Many doctors have had no training in diagnosing adult onset diabetes in younger patients. In 2007 the total cost of diabetes treatment was $174 Billion and that is only expected to rise as more and more people are diagnosed everyday.

One of the major problems is that parents, students, and even school administrators do not pay attention to poor food quality. Ironically even fast food chains have to supply information on what they are serving. So why isn’t that the case with our schools?

With a school system underfunded and a school food surplus sold in bulk and “on the cheap”, the results have been the downsizing of proper kitchen in school cafeterias to the point where pre-made fast food style lunches are the only meals available. This is a recipe for disaster and it is having an adverse effect not only on kid’s health, but it is teaching kids to identify food as being fast food and the result goes beyond heath and weight issues but to self-esteem and abilities to function properly in classrooms. From healthcare to national test average scores, everything is tied to what we eat.

The most common argument that children will not eat healthy food however many in the field disagree with this statement and say its simply a matter of making nutritional food available to them. The film explores how some schools, dubbing themselves as “Green Schools” such as Hamstead Hill Academy in Baltimore, have made nutrition a core part of their educational model. From school garden to cooking classes these schools have taught children to make healthy choices by including them in the preparation of their own meals.

The film also targets a broader range of social issues beyond school and healthcare touching on economics where the importance of locally grown produce in the Baltimore school system has lead to a partnership with Great Kids Farm. Not only does this farm supply produce for the school system but it also educates kids on where their food comes from and offers affordable alternatives to the expensive national distribution plan current in existence. Farms like Great Kids Farm not only create jobs locally but studies have shown that small farms, which use their soil to grow a variety of multiple produce are far more effective than their larger monocropping farm counterparts.

There is a national movement to build a real connection to the food we eat starting with local farmers and schools all the way to Michelle Obama’s white House garden all to show that people don’t need a big farm to have a positive impact on each other and on America.

Production Notes

The idea for LUNCH was born when producer and director Avis Richards realized that our country’s National School Lunch Program was not working and decided to do something about it. With Earth Day Network's input, Avis embarked on a year-long research process. Once she analyzed and understood the issue, she decided to share her findings in a film that would not only expose the problem but also recommend solutions.

Traveling from Boston to New York to Washington D.C. to Baltimore, Avis and her team interviewed medical doctors, teachers, chefs, school directors, food producers, volunteers, and others from various walks of life to ensure that documentary would feature various opinions.

Technical challenges were legion as the crew shot on a shoestring budget and within a limited time-frame. But, the team persevered and, in the end, produced a rewarding piece that they hope will generate some discussion and effect some change.

Originally, Avis and her team had intended to produce the film in HD video. However, some of the material was only available on digital video, so the crew decided to shoot the entire film in DV for consistency.

As they compiled interviews, their passion for the subject grew stronger and they became motivated to create a piece that would create impact both the general public and policy makers, so that children across the country may have access to healthy meals on a daily basis, and more importantly, that they can learn the importance of a healthy diet, a lesson that will last a lifetime.

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