(HN, October 19, 2010) – Wrapping up our look at hunger and malnutrition in honor of World Food Day, HUMNEWS’ presents, “LUNCH: The Film”. Produced by Filmmaker Avis Richards, Founder of Bird’s Nest Productions and the Bird’s Nest Foundation, LUNCH explores the pervasively unhealthy food which the US school lunch program provides to children in the public school system. This lack of quality can lead to malnourishment and disease, even if children are stuffed full of empty calories. Healthy food is the right of all the world’s population.
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 in the US 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.
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.
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.
■ The US Child Nutrition Act, which supplies breakfast and lunch to some 31 million students = $12 billion annually.
■ The US elementary school lunches average 821 calories per lunch.
■ 80% of US schools do not meet the USDA standards for fat composition.
■ Children who consume US school lunches are about 2% more likely to be obese than those who brown bag their lunches.
■ Soda vending machines are present in 43% of elementary schools, 74% of middle schools and nearly all of high schools.”
■ Nutrition requirements for school lunches: “Current regulations require schools to meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend that no more than 30 percent of an individual's calories come from fat, and less than 10 percent from saturated fat. Regulations also establish a standard for school meals to provide one-third of the Recommended Daily Allowances of protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron, calcium, and calories.”
■ “The National School Lunch Program gets about 15 to 20 percent of its food from the federal government each year, the paper says, with beef and chicken making up a big portion of the largess. But the meat received from the USDA receives far less testing for contamination than it would be by fast-food outlets that have had past troubles.”
■ “Most public schools offer students a government-subsidized lunch that is supposed to adhere to certain fat, caloric and nutritional standards. 20% of schools also sell branded fast foods such as Pizza Hut and Little Caesars pizza or McDonald's burgers and fries, according to a 2000 study of school health policies and programs by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
■ According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 percent of children (over 9 million) 6-19 years old are overweight or obese -- a number that has tripled since 1980.
For children born in the United States in 2000, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives is estimated to be about 30 percent for boys and 40 percent for girls. ("Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, 2005," Institute of Medicine.)
■ In case reports limited to the 1990s, Type 2 diabetes accounted for 8 to 45 percent of all new pediatric cases of diabetes, in contrast with fewer than 4 percent before the 1990s. ("Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, 2005," Institute of Medicine.)
■ By as early as 7 years of age, being obese may raise a child's risk of future heart disease and stroke, even in the absence of other cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, according to a new study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).
■ “The likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes and hypertension rises steeply with increasing body fatness. Confined to older adults for most of the 20th century, this disease now affects obese children even before puberty. Approximately 85% of people with diabetes are type 2, and of these, 90% are obese or overweight…Raised BMI also increases the risks of cancer of the breast, colon, prostate, endometroium, kidney and gallbladder.” (World Health Organization)
■ The CDC reviewed the discharge records of hospitals nationwide from 1979 to 1999, specifically of children ranging in age from 6 to 17 years and analyzed the results for all obesity-related illnesses. The researchers found that the incidence of:
• Diabetes had nearly doubled
• Obesity and gallbladder disease tripled
• Sleep apnea increased five-fold
■ More than 70% obese adolescents retain their overweight and obese condition even during their adulthood.
■ As the percentages of obese children raises, so does the percentage of those affected with juvenile diabetes at nearly the same rate.
---HUMNEWS wishes to thank Avis Richards and her production team for sharing LUNCH with our audience.