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According to a survey published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2009, roughly 94% of schools served a lunch that failed to meet federal standards for healthy school meals, and 80% of the lunches served in those schools exceeded federal recommendations for total fat and saturated fat.
Armed with these startling facts, a group of New Orleans kids – who dubbed themselves the Rethinkers – set out to make a difference in their community during the post-Katrina rebuilding period. ‘The Great Cafeteria Takeover’ shows how they transformed their school lunch menu when it debuts Wednesday, May 16 (7:00-7:30 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.
‘The Great Cafeteria Takeover’ is the first film in the three-part series ‘The Weight of the Nation for Kids’, which is a companion to the four-part, multi-platform documentary series ‘The Weight of the Nation’, spotlighting the facts and myths about America’s obesity epidemic.
‘The Weight of the Nation’ is a presentation of HBO and the Institute of Medicine (IOM), in association with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and in partnership with the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and Kaiser Permanente. All three films in ‘The Weight of the Nation for Kids’ will air during back-to-school season this fall.
In their campaign to change school lunch menus, the Rethinkers surveyed students at schools in their community and issued annual report cards to attract media coverage and capture the attention of decision-makers. The Rethinkers met with school officials and corporate executives from Aramark, one of the nation’s largest food service providers, to get them thinking about the quality of school meals and how they could be improved.
Using the report cards and survey results, the kids negotiated with Aramark to provide healthier food choices. When a general agreement to provide more local, healthy food did not result in change, the kids held the school officials’ and the company’s feet to the fire and finally arrived at a specific agreement to serve fresh, locally produced food at least two times a week.
Among the young people featured in the film are:
Lucy Tucker – A passionate student who is dedicated to presenting adult decision-makers with student survey data that they can use to provide healthier food options.
Victoria Carter – A student who cares deeply about the goals of the Rethinkers and wants adults to listen and act.
Ron Triggs – A younger student who is pleased to deliver the results of the report card at a Rethinkers’ press conference highlighting each school’s “grade.”
“Thirty-three percent of people within the State of Louisiana are obese,” says Johanna Gilligan, an adult advisor to the Rethinkers. “People are finally realizing that they have no idea where their food has come from, they have no idea what’s happened to it before it got to them.”
“We, as Rethinkers, know that adults will listen to us if we have great ideas and solutions, instead of just complaining,” says Carter.
“We are very excited about our new agreement,” adds Rethinker Jada Cooper. “We hope as the years go on, school food will continue to improve, and that every child in New Orleans will have a healthy school lunch with fresh local food, school gardens and food education.”
Three years in the making, ‘The Weight of the Nation’ offers an unflinching look at the severity of the obesity crisis, highlighting the groundwork for the societal transformations that must take place in order to slow, arrest and eventually reverse the prevalence of obesity and bring the nation to a healthier weight.
It is one of the most far-reaching public health campaigns on this epidemic to date. The multi-part, multi-platform series comprises four documentary films, a three-part series for families, 12 bonus shorts, a robust website and social media campaign, a book published by St. Martin’s Press and the free distribution of DVDs and comprehensive discussion guides to more than 40,000 community-based organizations working to fight obesity around the country.
To reach the broadest possible audience, HBO will use all of its services, including the main HBO channel, multiplex channels, HBO On Demand, HBO GO and more. All films will be available in English and Spanish, and will also stream free of charge on HBO.com, as well as on multiple platforms by participating TV service providers.
For more information on ‘The Weight of the Nation’ and the screening kits, please visit hbo.com/theweightofthenation.