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Revolution is in the Airwaves

April 21, 2010

I was sitting in a hotel in Providence, Rhode Island when I first heard the promotional spot for a new television show.  But this wasn’t an ordinary show.  It was something that seemed so unbelievable, so brash, and so up my alley, that I grabbed a pen and some paper from the desk drawer.  I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss it.

The show is Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.  And you don’t have to worry about missing the first few episodes, because they are all available for free on hulu.com until June 5.

For those who may not be aware of it, here is a synopsis of the show.  Jamie, British chef and Food Network television star, has been on a mission to improve the food schools serve to kids.  He did it over in England, and now he is in America – specifically, in Huntington, West Virginia where obesity is literally killing the children and adults of the town.

I love the idea of reforming the school lunch program.

Even in the better-off public school districts, the food the kids are served is a disgusting, processed, food-like substance.  Identifying the problem is easy. Fixing it is hard.

I was living in the area when Alice Waters took over the cafeteria at Berkeley High School.  She is one of the founding members of the local, seasonal, organic movement and has been banging the same drum since the 1970s.  Her PR people may have a better spin on the experience, but it was a failure.

The menus all sounded splendid, but the high school kids weren’t interested in eating well.  They wanted their McDonald’s.  Yes, even in Berkeley.  Which made me ponder the question, “If it can’t work in Berkeley, with a true believer at the helm, what possibility is there of school lunch reform working anywhere?”

Her other project that involved teaching kids about food, The Edible Schoolyard, was within walking distance from where we lived.  And it was magnificent. But that program is not easily transferable to locations that do not share a similar twelve-month growing season.

And anyway, I’m talking about Jamie Oliver.

There is a lot to like about his approach, even if you may think he’s some hyped-up self-promoting elitist food celebrity who talks funny.  And so far he seems to have won over most of his fiercest skeptics in West Virginia.  He even got the high school kids to eat his food.

The finale airs on ABC Friday at 9 p.m.  My hope is that when the show has concluded its run that it will provide a blueprint for other communities to follow.  Already there is an emerging toolbox on JamieOliver.com.

After all, Jamie’s mission was not to change the eating habits of one town in West Virginia.  Rather, he wanted to create a spark that would spread a food revolution across the United States.

Now that the show is over, it is in our hands.  There is something small you can do right now that only takes thirty seconds.  You can show your support for this movement by going to Jamie’s site and signing the petition. Thank you.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    April 21, 2010 9:43 am

    Even when Oliver taught them what was in a chicken nugget, and actually made one from chicken detritus in front of the children, they STILL preferred the nuggets to his healthful and tasty food!

    • StanfordSteph permalink
      April 21, 2010 10:30 am

      Which is clear evidence why little kids should not be given that choice. They need to be taught and guided how and what to eat. Positive reinforcement of what is good. Later on, there was a whole class of kids who all chose plain milk even though the flavored milk was right there because their teacher had told them that the plain milk was better.

      I’m pleased with what Oliver’s doing. I hope it catches on and helps change things to some degree.

  2. April 21, 2010 6:32 pm

    I did not know how out of whack the federal school food guidelines are. There was one case where pizza met a requirement that brown rice did not.

    That seems to be where a school system’s hands are tied. The school needs to meet certain requirements for funding and these requirements are easily met with processed food. After all, French fries count as a vegetable.

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