After Berkeley, school lunches will never be the same

When Helen De Michiel was shooting Lunch Love Community, a series of short films focused on Berkeley’s groundbreaking school lunch program, she would often interrupt her desk work to drop in to King Middle School to see what was on the menu for lunch.

Sharing the food with the school kids, chatting with the cooks and watching the care taken by the servers, dishwashers and cleaners all translated into material for the documentary, the making of which she also documented on her Notes from the Field blog.

In one entry, De Michiel, co-director and co-producer of Lunch Love Community with Sophie Constantinou, writes: “The school lunch cooks are planting seeds for future memories. At some point later in their lives, the kids who have gone through these lunch lines will remember the fine smell of delicately seasoned pinto beans, the crunch of the fresh Mexican slaw, and the ceiling light in the Commons rooms, and that moment when they were twelve years old and peeling a perfect Clementine orange to taste. This is how we make change on a daily level, one plate at a time.”

The films remind us of Berkeley’s pioneering role in laying the groundwork for the national school lunch reform movement now being espoused by First Lady Michelle Obama.


Lunch Love Community will make its big screen premiere at Pacific Film Archive on Sunday, February 13 at 2:30 pm, with a screening, conversation and reunion of special guests, including the chefs, teachers, parents and academics who created the Berkeley School Lunch Initiative. Also joining Helen De Michiel and Sophie Constantinou will be Bonnie Christensen, Executive Chef at the Berkeley School Lunch Initiative, school lunch reform advocate Joy Moore, Stephen Rutherford from John Muir Elementary School, and Charlotte Biltekoff from UC Davis’s departments of Food Science and Technology and American Studies.