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Two Angry Moms. 60 minutes, 2009. $29.99.
http://www.angrymoms.org/shop.html

   

REVIEW of Two Angry Moms:

Recently my five year old nephew Jake started ‘big boy school’, also known as full day kindergarten. On his first day of school he lined up for lunch in the school cafeteria as ‘lunch ladies’ helped him pile on chocolate milk and pizza. He took his place along with the other five year old newcomers in the elementary cafeteria’s picnic tables. After only couple of bites, he stood up on the bench and enthusiastically proclaimed for all to hear “this pizza is disgusting!” His parents had not noticed any discernable culinary tastes on Jake’s part before so we can only assume he was speaking truth to power. If so, he wouldn’t be alone. A number of people appear to have arrived at the same conclusion even though they may have opted to express their dissatisfaction a bit less demonstrably. Two Angry Moms is a video that Jake could get into. It makes similar claims, perhaps with a bit more finesse but the fundamental message is the same. It’s time for change.

Out with the pizza, fried foods, and sugary drinks to which our kids are so accustomed from Monday through Friday and in with lots of fruits and healthy greens! This crusade began when Amy Kalafa was surprised to find that her daughter was eating potato chips, neon green slushies, french fries and other sugar and high fructose corn syrup laden products for lunch on a daily basis. This news sparks her investigation into what actually is going on behind the lunch counter at her daughter’s school. Kalafa partners with another ‘angry mom’ and sets out to raise awareness about school lunch and to launch a crusade to substitute healthy eating options. In many ways this film is a documentary of the modern farm to school movement using the frustration of ‘two angry moms’.

While the spotlight is shown on what is wrong with school lunches in America, they also spend about one third of the 60 minute video highlighting what is right. Well known faces like Alice Waters of the Edible Schoolyard and Marion Nestle are interviewed in this video and discuss viable alternatives that are blooming around the country. Specifically, examples of Waters’ edible schoolyard program in Berkeley, California as well as progressive school lunch programs in New Hampshire are provided as illustrations of what is possible when local, fresh and tasty food becomes the mainstay in school lunches.

For those of you who followed Jamie Olivers’ Food Revolution on ABC in the Spring of 2010, this video will be a nice companion. Oliver is great at the ratings game and does a good job of showcasing what is wrong with American school lunch programs using Huntington, West Virginia as his test community. But context and history are not the show’s strength. He is not as good at tackling how we got here. “Two Angry Mom’s”, on the other hand, does a respectable job of describing why we are in this predicament and how and when school lunch menus took a turn toward the unhealthy and corporate. They do a decent job of exploring the role of federal policy, corporate involvement, and the constraints faced by procurement officials in school administration. I would have liked to have seen more attention paid toward financial pressures of school officials and loss of culinary skills by many school cooks, but clearly in 60 minutes every factor in this issue cannot be fully explored.

They also obviously miss making any connection between farm to school with local economic development of farmers and rural communities. Their diatribe – not unjustifiably - is all about health and nutrition, but they missed an opportunity to explore the multiple benefits gleaned from incorporating local, fresh, foods from community producers into school lunches. For those who make only the health argument, they miss the larger picture.

This video would be great shown in tandem with some of the materials created by Colleen Matts and others of the C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Agriculture at MSU. Also consider inviting a local school food preparer to join your group for a Q & A. In many communities farmers are doing a bang up job at filling this niche in school lunch programs. If you have such producers in your area, contact them about joining your group for a more in-depth discussion about how such arrangements impact them.

If you are interested in reading on this topic, see

Sonnino, Roberta. 2010. “ The School Food Revolution: Public Food and the Challenge of Sustainable Development.” Earthscan Publications.

Poppendieck, Janet. 2010. “Free for All: Fixing School Food in America.” University of California Press.

The following are academic, but with a Michigan focus

Izumi, Betty, D. Wynne Wright, and Michael W. Hamm. Forthcoming. “Differentiating Distributors in Farm to School Food Provision.” Journal of Rural Studies.

Izumi, Betty, D. Wynne Wright and Michael W. Hamm. Forthcoming. “Farm to School Programs: Exploring the Role of Regionally Based Food Distributors in Alternative Agrifood Networks.” Agriculture and Human Values Journal. On-line First: http://www.springerlink.com/content/8632j280744740g5/fulltext.pdf

Reviewed by:
Wynne Wright, Ph.D. Michigan State University

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS for Two Angry Moms:

1. What surprised you about this film?

2. How knowledgeable are you about the foods your children are eating when they are at school during the day?

3. Did you find the arguments made in this video, compelling or convincing? Why or why not?

4. Do you think the foods your children are eating resemble the school lunch programs profiled in this video?

5. How has your children’s school lunch program changed since you were in school?

6. According to this video, how did we get here? How did school lunches in the riches country in the world devolve into fried foods with questionable nutritional content?

7. What role does the federal government play in school lunch programs?

8. How responsible would your school district be if you were to become an “angry mom” and try to effect change the way these filmmakers did?

9. Is there a meaningful role for corporations to play in our children’s school lunch? If so, what might that be?

10. What’s missing from this video? What important connections to they fail to make?

11. What types of people might feel threatened by the arguments put forth in this video? How might you engage them in a fruitful dialogue about what is best for our kids’ futures?

12. What are the take home lessons from this video?

in cooperation with
Michigan State University
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