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Student's Film Project Offers Exposé of School Lunches

A New York City 4th grader's documentary on his school's lunchroom menu caused a stir last week. According to The New York Times, Zachary Maxwell, who attends P.S. 130 Hernando De Soto in Little Italy, recorded six months of footage in the cafeteria, hidden-camera style. With his Father's help, he then edited and cut the footage into the 20-minute film, "Yuck: A 4th Grader's Short Documentary About School Lunch."

Zachary started filming as a way to prove to his parents that the cafeteria's free food items were not as nutritious or delicious as the online menus on the New York City Department of Education website proclaimed. As the Times reports, Zachary points out in the film that the school lunch is often missing several food items from the day's menu, such as vegetables. For example, instead of offering the marinated tomato salad devised by Food Network chef Rachael Ray that the online menu boasts, the cafeteria would give "a slice of pizza accompanied by a wisp of lettuce," according to the paper. (Last fall, Education Week reporter Nirvi Shah wrote about the new school lunch regulations under the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which require more servings of fruits and vegetables than before). Additionally, Zachary says that 28 percent of the lunches consisted of either pizza or cheese sticks.

Marge Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, wrote in an email to the Times that vegetables and fruit are served daily and that Zachary must have chosen not to have them. "It would not be the first time a youngster would find a way to get out of eating vegetables," she wrote. Zachary responded that he had taken everything he was offered at each meal.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education's Office of School Food (apparently missing the memo from Feinberg) has personally complimented Zachary on the documentary and asked for his input on new menu choices. His film will also be shown this June at the Manhattan Film Festival.

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