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The Green Life: VIDEO: Schools Serve Lunch and Love

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December 02, 2010

VIDEO: Schools Serve Lunch and Love

“See the fat dripping out?”
“Ew!”
“There’s a pool of fat!”
“Look at all that. Ew, that’s nasty!”
“It’s sizzling! It’s sizzling!”
“I’m glad I don’t eat Cheetos that much.”

At Berkeley Unified School District in California, a middle-school science class learns about the fat content in junk food by burning a Cheeto, second graders study insects in the school’s organic garden, and kindergarteners wield graters, juicers, even serrated knives. The district, prescient of today's child-nutrition bill passing in Congress, doesn’t dish out the standard (i.e., processed and unhealthy) cafeteria fare. On today’s menu in Berkeley elementary schools: teriyaki chicken or edamame, stir-fried vegetables, steamed rice, a salad bar, milk, and fresh fruit — made from scratch with mostly local, organic ingredients.

Over 10 years, parent volunteers, renowned food activist Alice Waters, and many others worked to reinvent Berkeley’s school lunch. In 1999, they created the Berkeley School Lunch Initiative, which serves nutritious, earth-friendly foods to 5,000 children, half of whom qualify for federally funded lunch assistance.

The nonprofit Citizen Film has created six webisodes that capture Berkeley’s commitment to raising healthy children in a healthy world. In the sweet video above, students at Malcolm X Elementary study flowers, bugs, and insects in their school's organic garden. Next year, Citizen Film will release Open Minds Open Mouths, a documentary about the district's lunch initiative.

“For me, making documentaries is part activism, part art,” producer Sophie Constantinou told the Huffington Post. “If good storytelling can be connected with important change, then we're doing something right."

In the webisode But Is It Replicable?, Michelle Lawrence, a former district superintendent, says, “With a real commitment to solving the problem this [school lunch program] in fact can be done in just about any place.”

--Natalya Stanko

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