What's on Your Plate?
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this engaging documentary is an excellent, kid-friendly introduction to numerous complicated concepts about food, both controversial (food miles, high-fructose corn syrup consumption) and not (basic nutrition). Picture a Fast Food Nation for kids. Though everything in the film is presented in a friendly manner not unlike a PBS kid's show, minus the theatrical stunts of a show like Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, it may still lead to some uncomfortable questions about what your family eats, and where your food comes from. The film is also unapologetically pro-vegetarian, though doesn't linger on anti-meat politics. But for families who aren't afraid to examine their own eating habits, this film is a thought-provoking look at a scientific topic that kids can relate to.
What's the story?
Centering on two young, relatable female narrators who wondered why a farm-grown cherry tomato was so much better than the ones they had at school, 2009 documentary WHAT'S ON YOUR PLATE? deftly manages the tough trick of imparting ecological lessons without preaching. Sadie (daughter of director Catherine Gunn) and Safiyah are two 11-year-olds who live in New York City and become so curious about how the food they eat comes to be that they decide to make a movie about it. In their quest to find out why we eat what we do, they talk to farmers, chefs, politicians, even a poet, who explain complicated ideas like "eating local" or "empty calories" using graphics and demonstrations such as a school science lesson comparing walnuts to Funyuns. This documentary may cause kids to question what their own family eats, for good or bad.
Is it any good?
The topics in What's On Your Plate could easily be dry, but aren't. Sadie and Safiyah are curious and intelligent girls who ask interesting questions, and then answer them in a way that's neither off-putting nor preachy. Nutrition and the way food is produced can be a rather abstract concept, particularly to city kids who have never seen a peach on a tree or a tomato on a vine. This documentary makes it clear how those tomatoes turn into tomato sauce that's in school lunch, and why kids should be thinking about why they're eating each piece of that school lunch or whatever they brought in a brown bag.
Kids interested in social issues, environmentalism, filmmaking, and activism will find some great role models in this film, and potentially some inspiration for how to turn curiosity into a tool that can really make a difference.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the way that they eat vs. the way the film advises us to eat. Does your family visit farmer's markets? Do they try to avoid junk food? Do you examine labels? Do you agree with everything you hear in the film?
Is this film promoting a specific message or idea? How can you tell?
Safiyah and Sadie were so curious about food, they made a movie about it. If you were going to make a documentary, what topic would you choose? What change would you hope to happen thanks to your documentary?
What are some ways you would like to improve your own eating? Would you like to avoid a particular ingredient, or eat more of something?