Student Perspective: Documentary Film Lunch Line

September 21, 2010

Today we have a blog by HSC intern Christine Andersen, who is beginning her sophomore year in high school. Christine attended the Chicago premiere of the documentary film Lunch Line hosted by Uji Films, Applegate Farms and HSC. Thanks to Christine for sharing this perspective!

Today, HSC founding executive director Rochelle Davis will take part in a  panel discussion at the Washington, DC premiere of the film along with filmmakers Ernie Park and Michael Graziano, Cooking up Change National Honorary Co-Chairs Karen Duncan and Christie Vilsack, DC school food director Jeffrey Mills and Janey Thornton of the USDA.

Plus: Check out recent reviews of the film and view a trailer online.

by Christine Andersen

Lunch-Line-Screening-Poster This summer, I had the opportunity to see a screening of Lunch Line, a humorous and heartwarming yet informative documentary on the many current issues concerning school lunch. Part of the film features  last year’s Cooking up Change winners, the students of Tilden High School here in Chicago.

The film interviewed each of the winning students from Tilden, who actually joined us for the Chicago premiere of the film that night. I loved hearing each of them share their stories and seeing how much Cooking up Change meant to the students and their families. The clips of the students on their long-awaited trip to Washington, DC were also fun to see.

One of these students, Cari,  shared her love for Twilight, a love which as a sophomore in high school I am very familiar with. The Uji Filmmakers were very creative in that they illustrated the partnership between two groups of legislators with different goals through brilliant drawings of vampires and werewolves. They showed that the school lunch program originated (and continues) through alliances that we would not always expect. When the parallels linking the history between these politicians and the mythical creatures in the Twilight world were drawn, I was blown away, as this was certainly the highlight of the movie for me.

But not only did Lunch Line document the success stories of these students, it informed the audience of what it will truly take to improve school lunches. There are some aspects to this long term undertaking that I had never even considered before.

For example, the film brought up a concept which was very new to me: the idea that school meals have a requirement for a minimum number of calories but not a maximum. The school lunch program was officially started in 1946 as a response to hunger and the fact that too many school-age children were malnourished. When they established the program, they included this calorie minimum to ensure that students had adequate food to prevent hunger. Today, with obesity on the rise, this minimum calorie requirement seems out of date.

I was astounded by the fact that even with all of the evidence we have about child obesity, there is no cap on how many calories can be in each meal. Hopefully, when the Child Nutrition Act is reauthorized, schools will be able to, among other things, eliminate this minimum calorie count. A school lunch should not be something that is based solely on a nutrition label, but truly what kids are eating.

I certainly recommend this film to everyone, regardless of their level of knowledge about school food history and politics. After seeing this film, I surprised myself with how interested I had quickly become in a dispute I had never even thought about before.