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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #13
June 20, 2007

An Apple a Day

Super Size Me + Farmers' Markets

Most parents struggle to serve their kids enough vegetables in the day. In fact, some of our most creative moments have come at the kitchen table, negotiating with small fry about the benefits of broccoli. It was a five-star day when we realized that Super Size Me, an Oscar-nominated documentary, could sell the message about a healthy diet to our kids. Renegade filmmaker Morgan Spurlock investigates Americans' obsession with fast food by using himself as a guinea pig; he eats exclusively at McDonalds for one month. While it comes as no surprise that such a restricted diet makes him sick, it's shocking how rapidly he gains weight and how critically his blood and liver functions are affected. Within three weeks, his health declines to a point where his mother begs him to stop his destructive experiment. Another lesson in mother knows best? We like to think so.

Spurlock's unusual experiment inspired us to take a look at the government's food pyramid. It didn't take long to realize that our family came up short on fruits and vegetables, so we decided to try our own experiment. If we took the kids to our local Farmers' Market, could they find fruits and veggies they would actually eat? They scampered between booths, comparing strawberry varieties and tasting the first of the cherry crop. The kids discovered red carrots, purple potatoes and a hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower. They chatted up farmers who helped them learn to choose ripe melons and suggested recipes for fresh lima beans. Going back week after week is a ritual our kids love but not because they've become saintly eaters. (French fries are still a mainstay, after all). They've learned that the farmers always bestow their best bounty on a return customer. Yum yum.

Film Title: Super Size Me
Directed By: Morgan Spurlock
2004, Rated PG, 94 minutes

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this film:
  • Why this Film is Worth It: Super Size Me has become part of the popular lexicon, and had an impact on the national debate about health. Introducing the idea of a documentary to kids is really easy with this title, since they can so easily relate to the subject matter (we all know McDonalds). Spurlock stars in his own film, which makes the story very accessible, as well.
  • Red Flags: This is a great film for kids over eight, but beware of the gross-out factor. Spurlock literally loses his lunch after the third day on his ‘diet’ and you’ll meet a man who staples his stomach shut. There are needles for blood tests and you’ll hear about the decline of Spurlock’s libido. Mild language.
  • For Younger Kids: Try this hilarious book about a kid who doesn't want to eat vegetables: I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child.
  • One Voice Can Make a Difference: Log onto Spurlock's website to track how a quirky, low-budget project has had an impact in the world.
  • COOL FACT: The smash-hit documentary has garnered so much attention that McDonalds had to notice, and modified menus. School lunch programs around the country have taken heed as well, making the connection between kids' diets, their energy levels and their academic performance.

Our tips for talking to your kids about this film:

  • Cinema Savvy: Kids will be more willing to watch a documentary if you explain exactly what it is: someone who is very interested in a subject investigates that subject with a camera and then tells the "true" story of that subject by editing the film together. Can they think of something they'd like to make a film about?
  • Political Savvy: Most children don't really understand the connection between the strawberries that ended up topping their ice cream and the many fingers that toiled to pick them. We found this a good opportunity to discuss migrant workers and the organic and local food movements which are dominating food news recently.


Shop for fresh produce at a Farmers' Market, or grocery store

Time Allotment: 1 hour
Age Recommendation: Stroller Babes and up

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Popcorn Adventure:
  • What Worked for Us: Give each child a cloth bag to carry their own produce, and encourage them to ask growers if they can sample the goods. We let the kids be in charge of the money (no one takes cards or checks at the outdoor market), which is a great exercise in budgeting. Growers like to talk to customers, making for an interesting contrast with buying food at the grocery store. Kids can ask what is in season, and learn how to tell when a piece of fruit is at its peak ripeness.
  • The Next Best Thing: If you can't get to a farmers' market, head to the produce section of your local market and put your kids to work figuring out ways to add fruit and vegetables into every meal - making smoothies, adding berries to cereal, adding cut-up vegetables and hummus to their lunchbox.
  • COOL FACT: The movement to support locally grown farms and eat local produce is thriving. Check to see which restaurants in your area support local farms.

Our City Editors' tips for enjoying this Popcorn Adventure around the USA:

  • Anywhere: Google farmers' markets + your city.  If you need more help try this site lists farmers' markets by state. A farmers' market is any place that local growers may offer their wares directly to consumers. If you live in the country, you may be able to find farms that allow visitors.
  • Boston: From late May through mid-November, visit the area in front of Copley Square's Trinity Church (Tuesdays or Fridays from 11-6) to experience the thrill of a colorful, open-air farmers' market. The vast display of certified organic, locally grown produce brings freshness to any city street and neighborhood lucky enough to have one. On Mondays and Wednesdays from 11-6, a smaller farmer's market sets up at City Hall Plaza. Click here to find other neighborhood markets.
  • Houston: Head over to the Houston Farmers' Market where you'll find local honey, jellies and handmade soaps. Tuesdays in Rice Village, 2353 Rice Blvd at Greenbriar, from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturdays in the Heights, 3106 White Oak, from 8 AM to noon. Get there early for the freshest produce.  Best for kids ages 3 and up, who will enjoy the samples offered at each booth.  Many times soup and other refreshments are served making for a nice family meal.
  • New York: The Union Square Market, at 17th Street and Broadway, is open year-round, 8:00-6:00, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. You'll see top chefs from around the city picking, and if you return frequently, you'll get to know the growers yourself. Click here for other greenmarket listings around NYC.
  • San Francisco: Visit the Ferry Building Farmers' Market Tuesday 10-2, Saturday 8-2. Make a day of it with the family by taking the ferry, or BART or MUNI... or ride your bikes! Click here for other markets in the Bay Area.
  • Washington, DC:  FreshFarm Markets have several great markets around DC. Check the calendar on the website for locations and information.  Eastern Market, built in 1873, is one of the few public markets left in Washington, DC. The Farmers' line is open Sat. and Sun from 4am - 7pm. There is also an arts and crafts market open every weekend. (7th St. & North Carolina Ave, SE, on Capitol Hill) Take the metro to Eastern Market stop.  

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

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