by Gabrielle Redner
Not only does Catherine Gund’s film, What’s On Your Plate? educates its audience about where our food comes from, it also investigates why getting good food to all people all the time is challenging. The audience follows two seventh graders as they make the journey that food takes, from the farm to CSAs and farmer’s markets, to schools and into the home. Sadie and Safiyah meet all the people involved in feeding the tremendous appetite of nine million New Yorkers. Throughout the film, the girls explore some essential questions: Why does food that is bad for us exist? Why can’t everyone eat healthy, non-processed food all the time?
The timing for this film’s debut could not have been better, as we team up to reform the Child Nutrition Act. Identifying what must be changed seems simple, but taking those steps means overcoming many hurdles, educating key people, raising money, and building networks across the food chain to get the job done.
Sadie and Safiyah know that more fresh fruits and vegetables, even local ones, should be in their school lunchroom. Why aren’t they? For starters, the school kitchen doesn’t have a stove, so cooking is out of the question. They need the money to buy one, and the staff to cook rather than heat up frozen meals. Sadie and Safiyah soon realize that, even with good intentions, change takes time. In this timely film, two twelve year-olds teach all of us a lesson on how to ask questions and build a team. While they are often two against one in their interviews, they do not intimidate. (Not only because they are middle school girls; that could still be scary!). They ask questions to policy makers with open-mindedness and genuine curiosity, and receive candid responses. Ultimately, the girls bring people together to work towards a city filled with better food.
Gund’s film offers enlightenment to all kinds of audiences. Those who know little about the sources of their food learn about farming and the processes of urban food distribution, as well as basic differences between processed and real food. Others who are more familiar with our food system will discover why we cannot fix its broken pieces all at once.
The subplot of this film is the networking amongst like-minded individuals, who all believe in feeding good food to all people. This is a must-see movie. Be ready to laugh, to learn and to be warmed by the sense of community amongst people who love real food. For more about the movie, click here go to their web site.
Gabrielle is a former Slow Food USA intern and an undergraduate student at NYU who enjoys, among other things, food, writing, traveling and the ocean.