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"Love Your Lunch" campaign at Hillside Elementary School in Montclair, N.J. hopes to stop food shaming

"Love Your Lunch" campaign encourages kids to fight food bullying
"Love Your Lunch" campaign encourages kids to fight food bullying 02:55

MONTCLAIR, N.J. – This Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, some students and parents in Montclair, New Jersey are trying to encourage all kids to "Love Your Lunch" and teach others about the impact of food shaming.

On any given day, the cafeteria at Hillside Elementary School is a culinary dream, packed with lunches from every corner of the world. 

But food so lovingly made can come with a side of shame. 

"When I brought juk, my classmate looked into my thermos and they said ew, and they made a face that told me that they were disgusted," said 4th grader Lucy Williams.

"Why do you think they made that face?" asked CBS2's Christina Fan. 

"I'm pretty sure they had never tried it before, so they didn't know what to think of it," said 3rd grader Annie Jamail.

"How did that make you feel?" Fan asked.

"Different and sad," said 5th grader Penna Chandra.

Penna, Lucy, and Annie described what's unfortunately universal for many immigrant children, being teased for how their food looks and smells.

But their refusal to assimilate is different. 

"I want them to know how it actually tastes so that maybe they can decide if they like it or not," said Lucy.

The kids and their parents, many of whom are part of an Asian American advocacy group called AAPI Montclair, decided to fight the stigma by cooking up a campaign called "Love Your Lunch."

Varsha Hathiramani is one of the board members.

"It's huge and it can last a very long time as well because if you do get food shamed, then it's something like you won't want to take it again, you won't want to take anything from your culture again," Hathiramani said.

The group has already raised money to send educator gift boxes filled with books and teaching guides about diverse foods to schools. They also sponsored an art contest, which encouraged participants to draw their favorite meals. 

Last week, kids got a chance to share some of the food with classmates at Hillside Elementary's annual International Night. 

"We want kids to feel proud of who they are. We want them to know that they belong here," said AAPI Montclair's Rosylne Shiao. "They should be celebrating their culture and being really proud of the food that they eat, the families that they come from." 

"Why do you think this is something important to talk about?" Fan asked the children who had experienced food shaming.

"It's not okay to judge someone and I also hope they get exposed to new foods that they really like and then they won't judge other people when they bring them to school," said Penna.

After all, wouldn't life be bland if we were all the same?

Click here for more information on the "Love Your Lunch" campaign.

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