Avis and Bruce Richards are putting their money where their mouths are.

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Avis and Bruce Richards are putting their money where their mouths are.

The documentary filmmaker and her husband, president of Marathon Asset Management, have created a documentary short called “Lunch,” which examines what children are eating through the National School Lunch Program and advocates for healthier meals in schools.

Ms. Richards is now adapting the $300,000 endeavor, created by the Richardses’ nonprofit media company Birds Nest Productions in partnership with the Earth Day Network, to create a 12-show television series to air this fall on NYC Media, a radio, TV and online network for New York City.

“Parents have a hard time juggling everything for their kids and most have no idea how poorly they eat at school,” says Ms. Richards, a mother of two. “We want to put that information out there to give kids and parents options.”

When describing school lunches, Ms. Richards says most plates are a vision of white, consisting of sugar cookies, macaroni and cheese, pizza or mashed potatoes.

Children grow up “in a junk-food culture, causing obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes,” she says. “We want to change that.”



The documentary explores alternatives to the hamburger hegemony, interviewing farmers and community leaders about their efforts to change what schools serve children. It was shown at the Environmental Film Festival in Washington and was selected to play at the Independents’ Film Festival in Florida and the International Film Festival of South Africa. The documentary also shows in Whole Foods Markets across the country.

Through “Lunch NYC” for NYC Media, Ms. Richards is going into dozens of schools across New York City to spotlight unhealthy foods served in public schools and highlighting schools that are experimenting with organic and locally-grown foods. She also plans to host a celebrity chef cook-off to see who can make the best meal for less than 97 cents, the amount Ms. Richards estimates New York City’s Department of Education spends on each school lunch.

“Lunch” is one of more than 50 films Ms. Richards has produced and directed since starting her nonprofit production company in 2006. Her work includes projects for the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education and Sophie’s Voice Foundation, a charity that raises money for medical procedures for people with spina bifida, a neurological disorder.

Ms. Richards estimates that charities often spend up to $70,000 to create short films for documentaries, public-service announcements or videos to air at gala events. So the money can instead go toward programs, Ms. Richards says she produces films for free or without a labor charge.

“We have to give nonprofits a voice,” says Ms. Richards, who doesn’t take a salary for her work. “They can’t afford it otherwise.”

Write to Shelly Banjo at shelly.banjo@wsj.com