Yuck: A fourth-grader's undercover look at school lunch

Zachary Maxwell, the filmmaker behind 'Yuck: A 4th Grader's Short Documentary about School Lunch.'

Over the course of six months, then-fourth-grader Zachary Maxwell, captured undercover video of his school lunches.

An image of a meatball lunch from the documentary 'Yuck'.

In the workplace, you generally don't have a First Amendment right to whip out your video camera and document the indignities you face every day -- same as in school. But that didn't stop then-fourth-grader Zachary Maxwell.

No one would believe him about the cafeteria food at his public school New York City. So, all sneaky in the fall of 2011, Zachary shot video of his cafeteria experience, where he found the fancy online menus often diverged from the lunch tray reality.

"It all started out as a disagreement between me and my parents... I wanted to bring my own lunch, my parents wanted me to eat the school lunch," Zachary explains. He says his parents didn't take his complaints seriously, until they saw his footage. "They were like, 'Oh my God.'"

His film, called "Yuck", was just shown at the Manhattan Film Festival, which wraps up this weekend. Zachary, who's now completed fifth grade, is happy the film is making an impact, but he's not looking for a fight.

"I don’t really want to pick a fight with the Department of Education," Zachary says. "I just wanted to make a really good movie."

To hear more from Zachary, click on the audio player above.

  Trailer: Yuck - A 4th Grader's Short Documentary About School Lunch from Maxwell Project on Vimeo.

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

Over the course of six months, then-fourth-grader Zachary Maxwell, captured undercover video of his school lunches.

An image of a meatball lunch from the documentary 'Yuck'.

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For the some time out side food or junk food is ok but as a daily routine it is harmful for human being specially for children. Kids always like outside food, to avoid the junk food from kid parent should be take care about kid and in the school teacher should take care about it.


Maybe they could make better "use" of their funding by getting adequate roofing services like Omaha, NE, that way when children climb the building the roof won't collapse when they walk on it.

I just watched the entire film at http://yuckmovie.com/watch-it-now.html
and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. Nice to see all the acknowledgements at the end, as well (he had a bit of help).

It will always be cheaper to fill kids up on processed frozen carbs shaped like nuggets, sticks, and pizza. So that's what institutional meals will continue to look like. And he correctly points out that many of his fellow students get free meals. You get what you pay for. Fresh produce has a much shorter shelf life than the canned or frozen stuff. The lucky kids have parents who show them how to pack a healthy lunch, but let's face it, many parents read the nonsense printed on the official menu and choose to believe it. Working parents have a hard enough time getting everybody out the door in the morning without taking time to craft a multicolored salad that will likely be trashed anyway.

This could do real damage. The food pictured is like most school food: substantial and fairly well balanced. It's better than what many kids get at home. (I loved school food because my mother was a terrible cook!)

If this movie leads to added requirements for attractiveness and gourmet presentation, some schools will have to give up offering food.

Perhaps, but I would argue the school is guilty of misleading parents into thinking their children are being served healthy or tasty food. Classic marketing spin - in the extreme.

A closer look at the trailer, you'll see a lot of meals have no micro-nutrients and are heavy on macro-nutrients. So, no these meals aren't all that healthy.


the food looks perfectly acceptable. in the fast cuts, you see chicken with broccoli, you see pizza with an apple, there's lettuce and fish sticks.

honestly, this is not gourmet food but need it be? it looks just like the food i had when i went to public school in l.a. and i'm slim and healthy and fine.

frankly, especially from a larger perspective, this seems a bit spoiled.

My father was a NYC public school teacher for 40 years and I was a student for the usual 12. The disgusting food is exactly why he made me lunch every single day (a healthy deli-style sandwich, snack and a box juice). He couldn't stomach the idea of his children consuming that "yuck." Given all of the Jamie-Oliver-style school food movements of recent years, I'm sorry to see the state of the food served by the NYC DOE hasn't improved since I was last a student 14 years ago.

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