Cafeteria Man is a story of a positive movement that shows what's possible in our nation's schools. It's about the aspiration of activists and citizens coming together to change the way kids eat at school. It's about overhauling a dysfunctional nutritional system. And, it's the story of what it takes, and who it takes, to make solutions happen.
The feature documentary film chronicles an ambitious effort to 'green' the public school diet serving 83,000 students in Baltimore - and later, over 200,000 students in Memphis.
Leading the charge to replace pre-plated, processed foods with locally grown, freshly prepared meals is Tony Geraci, food-service director for the city's public schools. A charismatic chef from New Orleans, Geraci's bold vision includes school vegetable gardens, student-designed meals, and nutrition education in the classroom. His mission is as audacious as it is practical.
"This has never been done before," affirms Geraci, "but it makes perfect sense."
The film follows Tony Geraci, as a central character, introducing audiences to the dynamic assortment of human ingredients necessary for school food reform efforts to succeed.
Among the protagonists in this story are parents, teachers, administrators, farmers, chefs, and dozens of creative and motivated students. Their collective efforts are proof positive that a 'village' is indeed required to transform school food.
Over the course of several years, the film traces efforts to make healthy, nutritious meals available to all the city's students. Viewers watch as inner city youth plant and harvest vegetables at the school system's 33-acre teaching farm, now a national model. They witness what it takes to get local produce on school plates and they watch as high school seniors develop practical job skills through a new citywide culinary vocational training program.
"If Tony makes this happen here the way he wants to, I think you'll see this happening all over the country," says best-selling author and food activist, Michael Pollan in the film.