Documentary decries the food on school lunch trays

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School lunch seems to be on everybody’s agendas these days, from First Lady Michelle Obama to chefs like Alice Waters and Jamie Oliver, to politicians being asked to spend a little more, to advocates and business people who say they can do a better job than the government.

A documentary called “Lunch” takes a pretty dim view of the National School Lunch Program, which feeds about 30 million children. It quotes doctors, advocates, parents and teachers –- many of whom decry the fast-food style of food they see on lunch trays.


“Kids aren’t born with an innate desire for hamburgers,” says Margot Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C.

The documentary, made by Avis Richards, paints a frightening picture of childhood obesity and diseases related to food, before it offers some hope in the work being done to bring more produce and less processed food into cafeterias. The film gives credit in particular to the Baltimore school district, which has worked hard to reform its school meals program.

The film was made by Richards’ nonprofit media company, Birds Nest Productions; it toured some festivals this year and is scheduled to be shown in December at the Artivist festival, she said. And she is working with the Earth Day Network (Richards served on the Earth Day board) to turn the topic into a series that premiered this month on New York City’s official television network.

“Even the best private schools” fail to serve healthy lunches, Richards said in an interview. “Everybody needs education on this issue.”

[Updated Oct. 29 at 8:50 a.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly gave the producer’s first name as Avid. It is Avis.]

-- Mary MacVean