Memphis FSD shares goal to rid schools of processed foods

Tony Geraci shares his thoughts on the state of child nutrition.

July 25—In the new documentary “Cafeteria Man,” Baltimore public schools food service manager Tony Geraci explains to a group of cafeteria workers that he spends most of his time “being a bureaucrat in an office.” But the film also shows Geraci working alongside students in a new 33-acre urban farm, accompanying a group of kids to testify before a congressional committee, and giving elementary pupils their first taste of a melon they helped plant and grow. “Cafeteria Man” documents changes in Baltimore schools during Geraci’s 2008-11 tenure, which began with building a central kitchen to replace pre-plated, processed meals with freshly prepared food made with locally grown ingredients.

In the 83,000-student urban school district, says Geraci, “this has never been done, but it makes sense.” Many elements of the Baltimore program — school gardens, student-designed meals, and nutrition education in classrooms — have become a model for other districts. Geraci now directs nutrition services for the public schools in Memphis, and was in Boston last week for the annual meeting of the School Nutrition Association. “Cafeteria Man” will air on public television stations beginning in late summer.