A Healthy School Lunch | Edutopia
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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

A Healthy School Lunch

Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, California, serves up nutritious and delicious food kids love -- some of it locally grown in the school's own garden. More to this story.
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Narrator: Childhood obesity and related health problems have been rising at an alarming rate across the country due in part to the food choices kids have at school.

Bonnie: You see things like frozen pizza, fries, things that have a lot of preservatives, things that have been processed. We don't do any of that.

Narrator: In some schools, like the Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, California, parents, teachers, administrators, and food-service providers are demanding better-quality food for their children.

Bonnie: The Berkeley Unified school-lunch program started years ago with a number of families who were really concerned about what was happening in the public-school cafeterias.

Narrator: 39 percent of students in the Berkeley Unified School District receive free or reduced lunch. Including overhead, the food program spends an average of 4 dollars and 50 cents per lunch, well above the national average of 2 dollars and 91 cents. The program is able to make up the difference and thrive with grants.

Bonnie: There are a lot of people and there are a lot of organizations that are invested in children eating healthy. We applied for grants for equipment, ovens, stoves, retherms, all sorts of things. The money is there.

This is soy, and if you have the right mixture, the right blends of seasonings and sauce, everything, they love it.

Narrator: Martin Luther King Middle School also runs the nationally recognized Edible Schoolyard program, where students get hands-on experience in their organic garden and kitchen classroom.

Now, where do you think this came from?

All: Garden.

Right out there.

Narrator: In this integrated learning environment, teachers incorporate gardening and food preparation into lessons in science, mathematics...

Woman: If it calls for one-and-a-half cups of cooked pumpkin and we're doubling the recipe, then how much do we need?


Narrator: ...history, ecology, and culture.

See, just making it hot, just toasting it, gives it a different flavor.

Narrator: Students learn about the connection between their everyday food choices and the health of the community, the environment, and themselves.

Alice: This is a delicious revolution that we're talking about. This isn't hard to do. If they grow it, they cook it, they want to eat it.

Bonnie: Our kids who participate in the garden cooking classes eat three times more vegetables and fruit than kids who do not, and so the proof is in the pudding, as they say.

Beautiful! Now we're going to bring it right over here.

Narrator: Along with lots of veggies and fruits, King Middle serves up kid favorites like pizza and mac and cheese. But here, there is a nutritious twist on foods kids love.

Bonnie: We make our macaroni and cheese here fresh. We boil 300 pounds of pasta to do that. We make a low-fat cheese sauce with fresh cheese and Organic Valley milk. It's completely healthy. It is not processed. It is sustainable. It is local. It's something that anybody can do, and the kids absolutely love it.

Caleb: I think that King is setting a good example for other schools to have a more healthier lifestyle. Like, the healthy food actually can taste good. I mean, I really enjoy the food here.

Bonnie: To replicate this program, it takes a community that demands real food that is healthy, nutritious, and sustainable in their communities, and they have to stand up for it and they have to stand up and make a lot of noise about it.

Narrator: For more information on what works in public education, go to Edutopia.org.

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis
  • Lauren Rosenfeld


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew

  • Mike Elwell

Production Support

  • Amy Erin Borovoy

Production Assistant

  • Doug Keely


  • Michael Pritchard

Original Music

  • Ed Bogas

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