In FOOD FIGHT!, a video released early this morning by filmmaker Ben Zolno (New Message Media), a boy runs for his life after witnessing a murder in a convenience store. This murder, however, isn’t done with conventional weapons but with junk food.
What ensues is a life-and-death struggle as citizens of the boy’s community come together to fight against the snack foods that fill store shelves by brandishing real food. It’s billed as a comedic musical, but the message is far from funny: We are dying from the foods we eat while the corporations that manufacture, market, and sell them to us get rich at our expense.
Odd as the story setup is, the battle between healthy and disease-inducing foods is a reality; with every bite and sip we take, we determine how long we will live and how healthy we will be.
I can almost hear readers saying, “Well, that’s obvious.” If it’s so obvious, why are we in a health crisis of obesity? Is it just that we have no self-control? Or does much of the problem lie in the “foods” themselves?
Professor Boyd Swinburn, with the World Health Organizations Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention in Melbourne, Australia, is quoted by CNN Health as saying that nearly all countries, save the very poorest, are experiencing an obesity epidemic. “ ‘There is quite a lot of evidence now coming out that this is being driven by changes in the food system,’ he says. ‘The food supply: increasingly processed, available, affordable and highly promoted tasty food.’”
And, though we say we know better, as a society we persist in our bad eating habits, succumbing to marketing as much as to the addictive appeal of super-sweet, super-sized, super-convenient, processed foods.
What can we do about this (partially self-inflicted) epidemic that is leading to a future in which our children will die at younger ages than their parents?
Taking on the Problem
Zolno and his New Message Media colleagues address the obesity issue through a video their publicists describe as a “cross between Boyz N’ The Hood [sic] and The Matrix.” They’re hoping the video will be picked up by junior and senior high schools, a demographic old enough to understand the implications of the food choices they’re making and young enough to redeem their futures by changing their habits.
The promotional literature accompanying the release describes the match-up between the two films parodied, by saying,
Turning the Boyz N’ The Hood [sic] dynamic on its head — where bad guys robbing a convenience store are now actually putting bad food into the store — seemed a natural response to the irony that people in suits get rich for helping kill kids through diabetes and conversely starving large parts of the rest of the world, while people most affected by it in the US often go to prison for decades, often for crimes largely inspired by circumstances partly created by this corrupt system.
Adding Matrix elements should remind us all that while the odds are against us — that we will escape and rebuild the food and marketing system we blindly participate in like drones — it is ultimately the choice of many individuals who will step up, once we are awoken [sic] by leaders in the movement who can show us that choice.
Watch the video here:
To make life easier for teachers who may want to use the video in their instruction, curriculum expert Vanessa Carter has designed lessons to accompany it. Carter is self-described as “an interdisciplinary high school teacher dedicated to cultivating ecoliteracy and critical thinking skills in youth.” She writes,
FOOD FIGHT! invites students to question their relationships to food, food deserts, food access, global food sovereignty, ecological justice, stereotypes, drug use, racism and more. Young people are experts at consuming media. This film asks them to polish their media literacy skills, question their relationships to the systems around them and join a movement.
While a semester course could be devoted to deconstructing all of the issues raised in the film, I encourage teachers to include FOOD FIGHT! in their students’ experience, if only for one lesson! They’ll find the video online and continue to explore the questions most salient to their communities.
The artists dedicated to making this film a reality are all solutionaries, engaging in the world at critical leverage points and inviting change towards a more healthy, just and vibrant world.
Shaking Things Up
FOOD FIGHT! and the curriculum accompanying it provide a powerful one-two punch that promises to shake viewers out of the complacency that plagues us. And it promises to shake up the consciousness of some of the most vulnerable kids, those who live in food deserts in our inner cities.
Recognizing the problem is a first, giant step, and the video makes the problem very clear. But recognition is nothing unless we are also willing to change our behavior. And that’s the purpose of the curriculum.
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