Cafeteria Man

August 1, 2014  • 

Cafeteria Man is a movie that tells the story of positive movement that shows what’s possible in America’s schools, showcasing 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, at the time, the foodservice director for Baltimore’s public schools. A charismatic chef from New Orleans, Geraci’s bold vision included school vegetable gardens, student-designed meals and nutrition education in the classroom. His mission was as audacious as it was practical.

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. “This has never been done before,” affirms Geraci, “but it makes perfect sense.” 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.

After catalyzing change around school food in Baltimore, Tony Geraci felt he had taken his role as far as he could. He left in 2011 with confidence that the people and programs were in place to sustain the momentum. Geraci is currently the Executive Director of Memphis City Schools Nutrition Services, which provides over 200,000 meals a day for 110,000 students. Since his arrival in Fall 2011, he has increased participation in the Breakfast in the Classroom program, initiated an At Risk Supper Meal Program, expanded the farm to school program and established a 100-acre farm.

Visit the Cafeteria Man website to find out where to watch this compelling documentary film and learn how you can take action!