School Lunch Boycotters Appear in Documentary

A decade after its founding, the Wellness Foundation of East Hampton has guided thousands of East Enders through its six-week “wellness challenge” and created a posse of student “wellness warriors” who have participated in its Healthy Food for Life program.

The foundation’s work also attracted the attention of Joe Cross, an Australian who chronicled his own weight-loss and health-enhancement journey in two documentaries: “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” and “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 2.” On Saturday night, his new film, “The Kids Menu,” will be screened at LTV Studios in Wainscott, and he will be on hand.

Mr. Cross, who is an active health advocate with a website, rebootwithjoe. com, and several “Reboot With Joe” juice diet books, takes a look in “The Kids Menu” at how experts, parents, teachers, and kids across the United States are tackling childhood obesity and its causes.

It all started at the East Hampton Middle School. Students, who were learning about nutrition, noted that the school lunches they were served didn’t line up with the healthy eating principles being taught. A boycott was organized and a story appeared in The Star. Reading about the students’ efforts, Doug Mercer, an East Hampton resident, donated a cooler to the school district so that it could serve healthier foods. The Wellness Foundation’s children’s program is now a model for others across the country.

Mr. Mercer felt “if the kids in his hometown could stand up for wellness, he could, too, and he founded the Wellness Foundation in 2005,” Jennifer Taylor, the executive director of the organization’s education and programs, said in an email this week.

“Because of that, 10 years later, we’ve educated and empowered over 8,000 students in this community,” Ms. Taylor said on Monday. The organization’s Healthy Food for Life program operates in prekindergarten through middle school classrooms from Southampton to Montauk, and a high school curriculum is being developed.

Last year, online training for educators was launched, and just this month, the foundation presented its first East End “school wellness” conference for educators and parents. Resources for children and parents can be found at

Healthy Food for Life was featured in Mr. Cross’s second documentary, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 2.” For his new film, he tracked down Ruby Honerkamp and Cailyn Brierley, two of the middle schoolers who pushed for the school lunch change, and interviewed them about how the boycott and wellness program impacted their lives. They are expected to be on hand for the screening.

Mr. Cross, who received the Wellness Foundation’s “Illumination Award” in 2013, said in an email this week that he was “truly in awe of everything the Wellness Foundation has been able to achieve. I think the Wellness Foundation of East Hampton has done an incredible job of empowering kids.”

“The kids I’ve met who have gone through the program are some of the savviest about fruits and vegetables and the importance of fresh foods for health,” Mr. Cross said in the email. The Wellness Foundation and its WKids program “are leaders of the pack when it comes to educating kids about healthy eating and wellness,” he wrote. While “other areas are catching on, too, what’s happening in the Hamptons is serving as an example of what can be achieved in many areas.”

Having “a local wellness champion” like Mr. Mercer and “a team that is dedicated to the mission” makes the difference, Mr. Cross said.

Ms. Taylor credited the middle school students’ activism. “It really was the tipping point,” she said. “And the effect that that had across the world really exceeded Doug’s hopes to make a difference in his own community,” she said.

“ ‘The Kids Menu’ focuses on solutions, not the problem,” Ms. Taylor said. “It’s really an inspiring film,” appropriate for the whole family.

The screening, at 6 p.m., will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Mr. Cross. Tickets, which must be purchased in advance, are $5 for children and $12 for adults. They may be reserved online through