EAT UP

THE FILM

 
 
 
 

FILMED over 12 months INSIDE BOSTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS’ CAFETERIAS AND KITCHENS, eat up  tells A STORY OF POWER, FOOD, AND THE FUTURE OF CHILDREN, AND HOW HARD IT CAN BE IN AMERICA TO DO THE RIGHT THING IN THE FACE OF UNWIELDY REGULATIONS AND CORPORATE INTERESTS. EAT UP RIPPLES FROM BOSTON TO CAFETERIAS ACROSS THE NATION, OFFERING A MODEL FOR HEALTHY EATING AND HOW TO NAVIGATE THE POLITICS OF OUR MOST DIFFICULT TERRAIN: PUBLIC SCHOOLS. 

 
 
 

THE NEED

 “Usually when you go and meet with kids the first thing you hear is 'school food sucks' and you're like oh, okay, this is great!”

- Kelly Walsh, Nutritionist, Boston Public Schools

“We have the opportunity to feed all of our children at no cost, you would think everybody is coming...they're not. So what is it?”

- Laura Benevidez, Director, Food and Nutrition Services, Boston Public Schools

“It’s a $25 billion industry to feed kids within schools, that’s a huge market opportunity, this is America. But . . . it doesn’t feel right that it’s a US government subsidy that’s supporting the food that goes into these kid's mouths and it’s also paying for plastic wrap and transportation and logistics and operational inefficiencies and profit. Some segment of every dollar is paying for those things instead of for broccoli and chicken and, food.”

- Jill Shah, Entrepreneur, Shah Family Foundation

8 OUT OF 10 PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS IN BOSTON LIVE ON OR BELOW THE POVERTY LINE

IN BOSTON, NEARLY 80% OF PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS ARE FOOD INSECURE. EVERY STUDENT IS ELIGIBLE FOR A FREE SCHOOL LUNCH, YET PARTICIPATION IN THE GOVERNMENT FUNDED PROGRAM IS LOW. THE MAJORITY OF SCHOOLS IN THE DISTRICT DON’T HAVE KITCHENS AND ARE DEPENDENT ON FOR-PROFIT VENDED FOOD. MUCH OF THE FROZEN MEALS END UP IN THE TRASH.

 

THE SOLUTION

 
 

How hard can it be to deliver fresh, nutritious school meals under the federal reimbursement rate and within government regulations that kids will actually eat?

ENTREPRENEUR AND PHILANTHROPIST JILL SHAH STEPS IN TO WORK WITH THE SCHOOL DISTRICT TO REDESIGN SCHOOL FOOD AND GET BOSTON COOKING FOR BOSTON; A PROTOTYPE THAT SHE BELIEVES CAN BE REPLICATED ACROSS THE NATION.

EAT UP IS THE STORY OF THAT ENDEAVOR. THE FILM FOLLOWS A PILOT PROJECT THAT SHOWS EXACTLY HOW HARD IT IS FOR BIG BUREAUCRACIES TO MAKE CHANGE, HOW BIG IDEAS DEPEND ON THE “LITTLE PEOPLE” ON THE GROUND, IN THIS CASE THE LUNCH LADIES, AND THAT ALTHOUGH EVERYONE MAY HAVE THE SAME GOOD INTENTIONS, DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES CAN LEAD TO CONFLICT AND CONFUSION ALONG THE WAY.

THE INITIATIVE iS DRIVEN BY WOMEN: A HEADSTRONG ENTREPRENEUR, A WELL INTENTIONED BUREAUCRAT, AN IMPASSIONED PRINCIPAL, AND A fast talking, no nonsense CAFETERIA MANAGER WHO LEADS HER TEAM OF LUNCH LADIES AS THE order unravels AROUND THEM. WE FOLLOW THEIR JOURNEY AS THEY LAUGH AND CRY, AS THEY DECONSTRUCT AND THEN RECONSTRUCT A SYSTEM THAT IS SO DEEPLY ENTRENCHED AND HAS SO MANY DEPENDING ON ITS SUCCESS.

20 million kids across the United States rely on the lunches they receive free at school as their main source of nutrition. Yet, often, the food they are served is so unappetizing it ends up in the trash. EAT UP follows a Boston entrepreneur as she sets out to reinvent school lunch. Over a year long journey, she wrangles with bureaucracy, unwieldy regulations and a team of stalwart lunch ladies to navigate a path to replace plastic wrapped vended meals with fresh, healthy food cooked from scratch that changes the way kids both eat and learn.