Will Ferrell As School Food Reformer? Why I’m Worried

The Huffington Post reported yesterday that the story of Jamie Oliver’s fraught attempt to improve the school food in Los Angeles USD, documented on his Food Revolution show last summer, is going to be adapted into a feature-length movie.   Ryan Seacrest (producer of the Food Revolution show) will be a co-producer of the film, and the actors Will Ferrell and Sean William Scott are reportedly being considered to play the Jamie Oliver role.

The Hollywood Reporter sums up the movie’s plot this way:

The story centers on a hot Los Angeles chef known for his popular gourmet food truck who gets into trouble and is sentenced to work at a school. The chef revamps the lunch program with a ragtag group of kids.

Now, I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, anything that brings widespread media attention to improving school food is a net good in my book.  But at the same time, no one wants to shell out $9 on a movie ticket to see Will Ferrell deal with the real complexities of school food reform.  We’re unlikely to see him poring over dense regulations, struggling to meet an underfunded budget, lamenting the lack of a real school kitchen in which to cook and store food, dealing with a cafeteria too small to accommodate his students, competing with fast food outlets because of an open school campus, or, most importantly, battling an unyielding Congress for more school food funding.

Instead I think we can fairly anticipate a “feel-good” ending to this film that’s unlikely to bear any relation to reality.  And that’s fine for entertainment purposes  — yikes, even don’t want to see the real thing on screen — but it’s not fine if it leaves moviegoers with the impression that all it takes is “heart” and “pluck” (and, apparently, “a ragtag group of kids”) to fix school food.

In fact, it was just that sort of nonsense that led me, normally an ally of Jamie Oliver, to strongly criticize the Food Revolution show last summer.  I was ticked off by Oliver’s failure to tell viewers that the school he featured as a model for organic, scratch-cooked food actually receives significant outside funding, money which is not currently available to the vast majority of American schools.  In not sharing that relevant piece of information, by comparison every district not serving amazing school food looked poorly run — or just plain uncaring.   And that unfair implication was only reinforced when Jamie asked a worker at this school about the stunning difference between its food and the usual processed junk we see in most districts.  Instead of mentioning the funding differential, she answered, “Well, it helps us to really enjoy our jobs.”

In other words, if a school just has enough “heart” and “pluck,” kids can eat organic lettuces and free-range chicken instead of canned peas and nuggets.

That notion does a real disservice to the thousands of school food directors in this country who are doing their best to serve decent school meals with the appallingly few resources they’ve been given.  And a film selling that false message will only compound their problems.

Still, though, when it comes to a movie about school food, who do you think is going to be first in line on opening night?  I’ll save you a seat and a box of Junior Mints.

[Hat tip to Dana Woldow of PEACHSF.org for tipping me off about the upcoming film.]

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Comments

  1. says

    The other thing that worries me about it — and I may be off base here — is that the casting implies to me a lack of seriousness. Nothing against Mr. Ferrell or Mr. Scott — I’m a fan of both — but I think a school food reform movie starring, say, Matt Damon and Paul Giamatti says one thing to potential audiences; a school food reform movie starring Will Ferrell and Sean William Scott says another thing entirely. I’m sure it won’t be a slapstick comedy, but I wonder how “lighthearted” the approach to the subject might be. (Regardless, I’ll still be sitting next to you sharing those Junior Mints!)

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      Bri: Wouldn’t that be great? A serious, Erin Brockovich-type movie about school food reform, starring a serious actor? Except then I fear it would just be us and our Junior Mints in a very empty theater. :-)

  2. mommm!!! says

    Junior Mints get their shiny appearance from shellac which is excreted from lac bugs’ rear ends. Mmmmm!!! Delicious! :) Just thought I’d share that.

        • says

          You do realize that putting your fingers in your ears while reading comments on a blog post has little practical effect over blocking said comments. And, putting your fingers in your ears while “typing” comments on a blog post makes it difficult to type said comments!

          :-)

          ~EdT.

          • Bettina Elias Siegel says

            I’ll type with my elbows if I have to. When I go to the movies, nothing gets between me and my Junior Mints, not even shiny bugs! :-)

            • says

              i bet you could find safe chocolate covered mint chews at natural candy store. we take snacks into movies all the time. i tell my kids, if the movie house sold something that wouldn’t harm us, i would spend my money on their snacks. since they don’t, we smuggle our own in. rebels, we are.

              intriguing, this whole movie thing is. i don’t see why there couldn’t be an erin brockovich style school food reform movie with a slapstick food fight. mr. seacrest, you listening?

              • mommm!!! says

                LMAO! You guys are hilarious. Next time I go to the movies I’m totally asking for the candy that’s free of shiny lac bug poop. (we smuggle in our own, too mostly because you simply can’t get fair trade organic chocolate at the movies)

    • says

      I would certainly hope that the producers would ensure no such scene was left on the cutting-room floor! (*Shudder* I can just see some elementary school kid seeing this, and thinking “oh how cute”, then getting hauled up on capital murder charges when they off a schoolmate…)

      ~EdT.

  3. orell fitzsimmons says

    Anything that brings the toipc to a mass audience is a good thing and as for me, I will be there opening night with my milk duds.

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