Cafeteria Man (Richard Chisolm, 2011): USA

Reviewed by Brendan Beaghler at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.

 There are some films people see and show how certain individuals can promote change. Cafeteria Man is an inspirational story about a man named Tony Geraci, who is trying to reform the Baltimore lunch system. In Cafeteria Man they highlight Tony Geraci who is really trying to do the best he can to promote healthy change in our society.   The film directed by Richard Chisolm has appeared in numerous movie festivals such as: Hot Springs Documentary, Maryland Film Festival, and was the Golden Eagle Award at Cine in 2011.

Tony Geraci is the food-service director for the city’s public school system in Baltimore. He is trying to reform the current public school lunch program to make the food that is more nutrition for the 83,000 students in Baltimore. His vision is for schools to have vegetable gardens, student-designed meals, meatless Monday’s, and nutrition education in the classroom. The food that the students ate before Tony Geraci are not very nutritionist, but it is what the schools are able to do with their budget. The food the cafeterias used is a lot of processed food and canned food that can be bought in bulk for relatively low prices. He tries to see how the schools are spending their money and how he can help them get more for less. One solution Tony Geraci came up with, was for schools to buy local fruits and vegetables from Maryland.  Also, apart of Tony’s efforts is a 33-acre farm, were the public school students are taught how to grow and harvest their own plants and vegetables, that are later used in their meals. Tony Geraci is a very determined, vivacious, and persistent individual shown throughout this movie, who has his goals set on revolutionizing the cafeteria food in our school system.

Cafeteria Man is a film that portrays real people in real life, no actors or script telling them what to say or do. All of the interviews are done in very close up and some of the footage is not even professional done. In some of the scenes camera is wobbly and the shots must of been shot with a regular handheld camera. This might of been intentionally done. The documentary allowed the students to actively participate in the film, students were interviewed and did some interviews of Tony Geraci. There was one specific scene in the film, which stuck out to me and was very moving and powerful.  The film shows a student having a peach for the first time. The young man emotions and happiness can be seen in his face. This to me showed the serious lack of nutrition some of these students face and how lucky I am to have a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables available to me. This documentary does a wonderful job showing how horrible the nutrition is for the students in the Baltimore school system. After seeing this documentary, I can see why the United States has such a high level of childhood obesity. Michael Pollan, a food activist and best selling author said, “If Tony makes this happen here the way he wants to, I think you’ll be seeing this happen all around the country.” Tony Geraci is not one to take no for an answer and his methods seem to be a great idea and I hope he is successful.

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