In “What’s on Your Plate,” Sadie and Safiyah, who are two eleven-year-old, African-American city kids, go on this journey to understand their place in the food chain. The film is inspired by them looking at food and going around to stores and seeing, “Where does this food come from?” Like, “Why are we getting potatoes from Canada, when there are potatoes grown 100 miles away?” And along the way they talk to farmers and food activists and policy makers and, most importantly, their peers.
They visit a farm and talk to a carrot farmer. They visit farmers’ markets and talk to the Angel family, who are immigrants from Mexico who have, through a state-run program, leased farmland from New York, and they sell at the farmers’ market in Tompkins Square Park.
They talk to the Manhattan Borough president, who has started the “Go Green” program, where he works with local vendors and helps create farmers’ markets in neighborhoods, and tries to “green-ify” underserved communities.
The girls talk to adults who are struggling with diet-related health issues. They talk to people who’ve had premature heart attacks, who have diabetes, and although those are some of the more poignant and sad parts of the film, it’s also very inspiring, because it helps the girls understand that the way you eat when you’re young does impact the way you live when you’re not young.
In the end, the girls get together with an eco-chef named Bryant Terry, and they cook a meal with food that they find at local farmers’ markets. And they invite all the people that they’ve met along the way to join in the celebration with them.
We see the film, not just as a documentary film, we see it as a component in an outreach campaign. We’ve developed a curriculum that’s like a study guide to accompany the film, and we have these three DVD modules that are short clips that are easy for teachers and community centers to work with, and they focus on local food, school food services, and diet-related health issues. The film shows them the alternatives that will keep them healthier.