A while back, I told you about a documentary film called “What’s On Your Plate?” which follows two eleven-year-old New York city girls as they “explore their place in the food chain.” The film has been lauded by such food politics luminaries as Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, Chef Ann Cooper and Kofi Annan.
Over the weekend we finally had time to sit down and watch a screener DVD that the film makers were kind enough to lend to me. Both of my kids (ages 8 and 10) enjoyed the film and would recommend it to friends. The film’s protagonists, Sadie and Safiyah, are very appealing as they explore various questions relating to the origins of their food. Among other things, the two girls visit food activists; farmers’ markets; a CSA (community-supported agriculture) program; a family friend who’s just suffered a heart attack and has changed his diet; and the head of the New York city public school lunch program. The latter interview was especially interesting as the girls gently — but persistently — ask questions about the Snapple vending machines placed in the schools; the city officials seemed to visibly squirm before the cameras as they tried to justify the juice sales on the grounds that the revenues support school athletic teams.
Both I and my children most enjoyed the girls’ interviews and visits with the Angels, a Mexican family that rents a plot of land and grows organic vegetables for sale in the city. My kids — city dwellers that they are — seemed really interested in seeing up close how the food was planted and harvested, perhaps all the more so because the Angel family’s own children participate in the process. And we all enjoyed watching an entire meal prepared at the end of the film, made from beautiful, seasonal ingredients purchased through a CSA.
My complaints about the film are minor. The presentation of the issues seemed a little disjointed, although I’m not sure kids would notice or care. And while I’m no defender of highly processed foods, I didn’t love the way these foods were at one point described as “dangerous.” In my opinion, demonizing food that way isn’t productive; it’s far better to simply focus on the positive benefits of eating whole foods.
Those quibbles aside, though, I’d recommend the film to any parents or teachers who’d like to get a productive conversation going with children regarding where our food comes from and how our food’s origins affect our bodies and our world. (FYI, the DVD also includes three study modules, although we didn’t have time to watch them.)
Here’s a list of future screenings of the film, and it’s also available for home viewing. For more information, including information about hosting a screening in your own town, contact Bullfrog Films or call 1-800-543-3764.