Last week, the American Congress finally passed the new child nutrition act known as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. School lunch activists are greeting it with cautious optimism—it doesn’t go nearly as far as most would like—and compromises were made along the way, but there was the chance it wouldn’t get passed at all. So the fact that it lives to increase the money going toward lunches by 6 cents per meal (activists were pushing for $1 at the beginning of their campaign), establishes better nutrition standards, funds farm to school programs, and cuts down on red tape so low-income kids can get subsidized or free lunches more easily, are all victories.
But it’s worth a reminder of how far from the ideal most US school lunches are, and (despite these gains) will likely continue to be.
Lunch Love Community Documentary Project shows the ideal (or at least somewhere pretty close). In a series of short videos (or webisodes as they call them) the filmmakers chronicle the story of the Berkeley School Lunch Initiative, a community-based reform movement that’s transformed school lunch in the Berkeley school district. Or, as the filmmakers explain, the videos reveal “how passionate and dedicated people coming together can change the way their children eat, how they think, and how they learn in school.”
The webisodes run the gamut from school gardens and cooking programs to the role of parents and the people who make the food. The filmmakers intend to collect it all into a full-length documentary to be released next year.
Berkeley has long been in the forefront of school lunch reform but gathering the story together in such a visual way with so many entry points reveals even more clearly how extraordinary it is. It’s inspiration for all of us.