Working with kids and KOMU scripting

My penultimate story was my first story for KOMU, our local NBC affiliate. This story introduced a whole range of new challenges to me, particularly working in a new format with a slippery subject – school lunches. Working with Alex Sagi, we visited three schools over the course of a week and collected massive amounts of footage in an attempt to circumvent the biggest problem I’d run into with video – having enough b-roll. I didn’t want to be in a situation where I had to pair narration with inappropriate or repetitive shots. And to an extent, we succeeded, I think – for the first time, I felt while editing like I had a little freedom, a little wiggle room, and some interesting choices.

The biggest difficulty in collecting b-roll was legal. We were prohibited from including one of the most obvious images in a story about public schools – kids’ faces (at least, kids whose parents hadn’t given approval.) We used two methods to circumvent this problem – shooting kids in lunch rooms from unusual angles, and seeking out alternate methods of talking to kids. I found that kid/parent bonding activities – in this case, we were lucky most churches in Columbia were hosting vacation bible school during the weekend – were the best way to get this permission. While Alex worked on background information about the newer, healthier menus the schools were initiating, I tracked down a variety of kids who were willing to speak.

When I rewatched the video package we put together, I see the flaws in the light of day, and they’re ugly. Maybe it was our inexperience and clumsiness with some of the technical aspects of shooting video. Some of my framing was downright miserable. It’s clearly unusable. No one would run this. At the time, I’d noticed those technical issues and mentally shelved them, convinced none of them were that big an issue. They were. I winced at parts of this. Writing a KOMU script was fun, though, and gave me a chance to work on my redundancy-eliminating skills. If I could go back, I would’ve done a little more work for KOMU. While I was involved with a couple video packages for other outlets, I see the stark beauty of the KOMU script format and how well it helps clips translate into video storytelling.

Yogurt parfaits and hummus among new menu items for Columbia Public Schools this fall
By Alex Sagi and Davis Dunavin

Columbia — Students will have the option of fresh, locally grown produce like yellow squash and zucchini when classes resume this fall in the Columbia Public School District.

To health-conscious students like middle-schooler Kayla Wingate, the changes are important.

“I think that it’s unhealthy for the kids at elementary schools and middle schools or whatever grade to eat processed foods,” Wingate said. According to her friend Carey Bass, Wingate tells her friends to eat healthy and is happy about the upcoming changes.

Laina Fullum is the director of nutrition services for the district. Fullum said along with parents and administrators, she has wanted to introduce local foods into lunches since before she took her position three years ago.

She said on December 2, 2010, she met with farmers and administrators and found a path to begin introducing what she considers fresher, local produce.

Last spring, Columbia public schools worked with its current food provider, Cole Food Services, and began serving locally grown asparagus, watermelon and apples.

Fullum said the district has been testing some new menu items this summer, including beans and rice, yogurt parfaits and hummus, and is considering giving them larger roles on the menu in the fall. Schools are also transitioning from white pasta to whole-wheat pasta, something Fullum said didn’t go over well at first.

“Initially, our kids hated it, but now kids love it,” Fullum said.

Starting in August, students will see expanded salad bar options, including fresh, locally grown tomatoes, onions, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans and berries.

Schools will also provide different main courses. Fullum said elementary schools will have one ‘meatless’ day a week, serving only vegetarian selections. While high schools will continue to have meat on the menu every day, Fullum said the district will try to offer vegan or vegetarian options more frequently.

With those additions, Fullum said she’ll be taking elementary schools’ bagged or “express” lunches, containing snacks like nachos and other processed foods, off the menu. Fullum said those foods have been controversial with some parents.

The new changes come with a price increase of 35 cents per lunch.  Fullum said 25 cents would cover operating costs that would increase regardless of menu options, and the remaining 10 cents will pay for the new, fresh foods.

When it came to finding a supplier for the fresh food, Fullum said she needed a vendor that could provide the quantity necessary to feed the whole district. She selected a group called Missouri Foods 4 Missouri People, based out of Marshall, Mo.

“We’ll be putting out bids to other vendors, but they’re the only ones who can do it,” she said.

The group already provides similar fresh food for Boone County Hospital, University of Missouri Dining Services and Hy-Vee.

Jean Gaddy Wilson, a retired journalist and former MU professor, founded Missouri Food 4 Missouri people one year ago with the help of Eric Cartwright, executive chef of MU’s Campus Dining Services and organic gardener Rick Boudreau. The organization includes about 35 mid-Missouri family and Amish farmers. It serves as the contractor to help get food from the farmers to the large organizations that prepare and sell food in mass.

Fullum said the district spent about $26,000 on all fresh produce last year, but said it is too early to tell how much money the district will spend this year. Fullum said she will work with Missouri Food 4 Missouri People to get the produce but still retain Cole for other menu items.

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