HARTFORD, Conn. - What happens when a man eats nothing but McDonald's food for 30 days? It's a lesson that schoolchildren across the country are about to find out.
Morgan Spurlock, director and star of "Super Size Me: A film of epic proportions," is releasing an edited version of the film for classrooms. The school version of the Academy-Award nominated film is scheduled to be released after the Feb. 27 Oscars ceremony.
To Spurlock, schools are the perfect place to teach nutrition.
"We'll never make every parent a perfect parent. It won't happen. But I really believe we can make every school really close," Spurlock said, while in Connecticut at a forum on childhood obesity Thursday.
The film chronicles his deterioration during the experiment, measuring his bulging belly, soaring cholesterol, depression, lack of attention and sexual dysfunction, which he edited out for the school film.
The 34-year-old filmmaker gained 25 pounds during the monthlong feeding frenzy, prompting his doctor to beg him to stop and declare in disgust that his liver had become pate.
The school DVD is targeted for grades six through 12. It contains sample lesson plans and bonus interviews with nutritionists and doctors. Spurlock also said that he is working with foundations to underwrite the cost, so that cash-strapped school districts can get it for free.
Spurlock is now fit and trim again thanks to a thorough detoxification diet designed by his vegan fiancee, Alex Jamieson. But the film's popularity — it was the second-highest grossing documentary in 2004 — has set him on a nationwide tour of colleges and high schools to speak about childhood obesity.
The film is critical of the fast-food industry for targeting advertising to children. But it also is critical of some schools for making junk food like ice cream, candy, chips and soda available for lunch. One scene shows students ordering nothing but french fries, soda and candy as their lunch, while lunch workers say the food is there because children need to learn to make the right choices.
Combined with cuts to gym classes and reduced health education in schools, Spurlock believes schools are teaching kids to be obese.
"We're educating kids in the classroom, but we're abandoning them in the lunchroom," he said.
State Rep. Mike Cardin, a social studies teacher at Tolland High School, said his school has shown the documentary to its health classes.
"The influence of the food companies on the students' lives is so profound, it's something they can relate to," said Cardin, D-Tolland.
Though Spurlock said he thinks he has a good chance at winning the Academy Award, his roller coaster year has been reward enough. He also has a book and a TV series debuting later this year. But the real prize is getting the chance to influence schools, lawmakers and others to change eating habits, he said.
"To me, this is an Oscar," he said.
© 2005 The Associated Press