'Two Angry Moms,' One Important Cause

Schools have been promoting local farm products for years, Wong says. "There are thousands of districts that participate in farm-to-school programs. We take any opportunity to use the farm-fresh products like corn, pears, plums, apples, broccoli and squash."

Mary Hill, president of the School Nutrition Association, a professional group with 54,000 members, including food service directors, cooks and cafeteria managers, says the majority of districts are trying to offer more nutritious foods.

"We all want our children to eat healthier, and we're going to do whatever it takes within our resources to make that possible."

A federal law requires that school districts have their own wellness policies, including guidelines for foods sold in schools. Some states regulate foods sold in vending machines, school stores and a la carte lines.

There's also a bill before Congress that would require an updating of standards for these foods.

The heart of everyone's concern is childhood obesity. A third of children — about 25 million kids — are overweight or obese, which puts them at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and other health problems.

Kalafa says she applauds improvements but adds that from what she has seen, "schools are still offering highly processed foods. I have not seen a lot of schools baking chicken from scratch."

She suggests that parents have lunch at school and investigate what's being offered throughout the building. If it's not healthful, the adults should form a committee and take action, she says.

"I have letters from thousands of parents from every state talking about the nutrition horrors they've seen in their kids' schools, from preschool on up," Kalafa says.

"I'm not just talking about the school lunch program, but the entire culture of food in schools, which is reflective of the entire culture of food in America: the availability of lots of processed food that fills you up but doesn't contribute to optimum learning and behavior.

"We're trying to show people the many wonderful things that can be done when parents get involved."

In the movie, she profiles a few model programs, including the one at the Katonah-Lewisboro School District in Katonah, N.Y.

Last year, the district started offering more nutritious foods in the vending machines and hired a chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America to help instruct the cafeteria staff on preparing healthier fare.

At first, the students grumbled about not having french fries and chocolate-chip cookies, says Fran Cortina, food service director for the district. She's an employee of ARAMARK, the food service provider. "Honestly, they don't even miss it anymore."

Even some parents asked, "Didn't you go a little crazy by taking out the white bread?" says Mary Ann Petrilena, one of the moms who helped spearhead the change. But "these changes will profoundly impact children's long-term health," she says.

The district offers a farmers' market on Saturday at the high school and has gardens at two schools. Rubin wishes all schools had a garden.

"It's a way to inspire students to care about the food," she says. "It's so different when you are growing the food. If peas are put in front of you, and you are told they are good for you, that doesn't mean anything. If you grow that pea and watch it flower, it'll mean a lot more to you. That's such a powerful teaching tool."

Proud to be angry

Some people say all these changes are too expensive, "but I think every penny is worth it," Rubin says. "To me, food is health care. You can pay the farmer or the doctor."

Rubin knows the term "angry mom" turns off some people, but it shouldn't, she says. "I'm proud to be an angry mom. Angry mom means a mom who cares enough to stand up for her child's health.

"You get angry when your boundary has been violated, and the food industry has violated our boundaries with what they are offering our kids. I'm just trying to protect my cubs." She hopes the film makes "the term 'angry mom' as common as soccer mom."

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