Lunch is the Lesson

LUNCH IS THE LESSON is a twelve-minute film that explores public schools as a place to address nutrition related illnesses afflicting people in the US by providing safe, healthy, and nutritious food for our children. 300,000 people die every year in the United States due to obesity and nutrition related illness. Hospital costs associated with childhood obesity rose from $35 Million in 1979 to $127 Million in 1999. The film asks parents, educators, and experts in the field to express their thoughts and concerns about the future of our children in a country where one in three children are overweight.

The film takes place in San Francisco California, but the story is a common one for most major cities in the country. The film focuses on two public elementary schools in southeastern San Francisco, a low-income community where there is not a single grocery store. This community suffers a disproportionate amount of preventable disease as a result.

There are many factors involved improving the health of our citizens, but a good place to start investing in a safer, healthier future is in our public schools, where over 30 million children ate the prepared lunch last year. A large number of children receive the majority of their nutrition on a daily basis at school, what are we providing for them and our future?



Discussion Guide*

This discussion guide provides questions to help you engage your family, friends, or your community in discussion about the health risks ofobesity and the role of public schools in providing children withhealthy nutritious food 


  • Public Education as a Community Resource
  • Public Health
  • Nutrition Education
  • Obesity and Chronic Disease Prevention

Discussion Questions

  • What in the film stood out for you and why?
  • In the film Aurora Brown mentions "It just hit me, that could be me, it could be any one of us." How role does food play in your health? How has food affected the health of you loved ones and your community?
  • In the film Esperanza Pallana mentions that some communities are living in "food deserts," what does she mean?
  • What are some of the examples in the film that make it difficult for people in low-income neighborhoods to get proper nutrition?
  • In the film Raquel says: "Schools have decreased the infrastructure within which they have to prepare food," what does this mean for the food?
  • How do most schools get and prepare their food?
  • In the film Mary Jue, a school nurse, mentions the costs associated with treating preventable diseases and behavior problem, what role can food play in reducing those long term costs?
  • What are some examples from the film of ways individuals are improving nutrition and education?
  • In the film Joy Moore says that "opportunity, the lunch itself should be the lesson." How can schools improve their food? What responsibility do teachers and parents have? What are the responsibilities of administrators and policy makers?


Facts and Resources


  • Research studies and health statistics continue to underscore the link between obesity in both children and adults and the onset of many serious and chronic health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes. With the problem reaching what some call epidemic proportions, state and local jurisdictions have been challenged to look for cost-effective and innovative ways to introduce more nutrition and physical education into already beleaguered school systems. (APHA, 2009)
  • In 2004, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) served an average of 29 million lunches daily, at a Federal cost of $7.6 billion (USDA, Food and Nutrition Service, 2005).
  • Research from the School of Medicine, University of California - Los Angeles found that a salad bar as a lunch menu option in the USDA reimbursable lunch program can significantly increase the frequency of Fruit & Vegetable consumption by elementary- school children living in low-income households.

From the National Center for Health:

  • Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past two decades
  • Obesity is responsible for 300,000 deaths every year.

From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Of the children born in 2000, 1 in 2 Black/African American and Raza/Latino youth,and 1 in 3 White/Caucasian youth, will have diabetes in their lifetime, with most of them getting the disease before they graduate from high school.
  • The direct medical care cost attributed to overweight and obesity diseases are staggering.  In 2002 dollars, U.S. medical expenditures in 1998 may have been as high as $93 Billion.6 In 2001 dollars, obesity-associated annual hospital costs among youth were estimated to have more than tripled from $35 million in 1979-1981 to $127 million in 1997-1999.


San Francisco Organizations

SF Bay Area Organizations

Grassroots Efforts throughout the U$A

San Francisco Unified School District

National Agencies

Meet the Filmmakers


MICHAEL HAMM is a documentary filmmaker and photographer with experience in audio, video and 16mm film production. While at San Francisco State, Michael directed several films and music videos including: A Crush (2007) a 16mm short, and The Talk (2007) produced by the National AIDS Fund in connection with The Health Equity Institute and the San Francisco State Cinema Department. Michael also wrote and produced Race To The Bottom (2009) which is being actively screened by The Coalition For Clean And Safe Ports in Oakland. Before returning to school, Michael spent a few years traveling and working a series of odd jobs including doorman, factoryworker, cook, and Innkeeper. Realizing the vital importance of education, Michael moved to California where he worked at a series ofeducational non-profits in West Oakland public schools as a tutor and mentor. Michael is currently working on creating a non-profitproduction company, Gleaner Pictures (, which will focus on issues of Sustainability, Food Security, Worker Justice, and Public Education


AKYYA MAYBERRY graduated in Fall '09 with BA in Liberal Studies and a BA in Cinema. She graduated from Fresno City College and transferred to San Francisco State studying Liberal Studies until she was accepted into the Cinema program to study her passion. Prior to making her first film, Akyya produced music and directed music videos for local artists in her community. She looks to urban music and film for outlets. She grew up the fifth child of thirteen, in Fresno, California in a low income neighborhood, which has given her many memorable experiences that she expresses in her music and films. Akyya has written and directed films based on the many experiences that she has had growing up as young African American female and the experiences of those surrounding her. Her films are typically narratives with very documentary-like topics and style in that they are scripted and shotbased on observing and participating in the everyday interactions ofthe members of her family and community. Such work includes the screenplay "Kara and The Kitten Bandits", Traces, a 16mm short film, and the short film The Rocket Scientists which will be completed during the Summer '09.


    GREG KNOWLES is a filmmaker, editor, and photographer who was raised in Oakland, California where he lived until attending San Francisco State University. He graduated with a BA in cinema in the Spring of 2009 and is continuing to work on social justice documentaries.


      DEBORAH GALLEGOS is the daughter of working-class immigrants and of ourbeloved mother earth.  She finds deep inspiration through cultural affirmation and community organizing movements. As a first-generation, college transfer student; Deborah is a graduate in Raza Studies from the College of Ethnic Studies at SFSU and has earned two certificates from City College of San Francisco in Community Health Work and Nutrition Assistance. She is empowered by holistic health practices that address public health issues through a critical lens of ethnic, gender, and class analysis. Deborah wants to further investigate solutions to structural inequalities and racial health disparities. She promotes localizing a sustainable food system, as one demand towards food sovereignty. Her future plans include volunteering with La Comunidad Apoya una Justa Agricultura (La CAJA) Collective, whose mission is to encourage conscious eating by making affordable organic produce easily accessible to low-income communities; by building community supported agriculture in San Francisco neighborhoods.



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        *The information on these pages is provided by the student film makers and does not represent an endorsement or verification of statements from the Health Equity Institute