I was amazed to see America’s school lunches exposed on the new show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. I have been a Jamie fan for years after watching several of his cooking shows on Food Network, subscribing to his magazine and buying his cookbooks. America doesn’t know Jamie Oliver that well compared to other countries. He is a megastar in the UK and also very popular in New Zealand, Australia etc and this latest show just could make him a household name in America too.
Jamie’s Food Revolution aired last Friday on ABC. The show is produced by Ryan Seacrest (American Idol) which helps a lot for the many PR opportunities they were able to score including Oprah. After seeing the promotional spots I knew there would be drastic stories of mothers feeding their kids the worst foods, and how unhealthy school lunches are. I had no idea the lengths they would go to create this real life case study.
That is a feat in itself. He must be incredibly busy just running his UK operations (cooking & reality shows, charities, magazine, restaurants, you name it!) and to sacrifice half a year is quite amazing. Jamie also has a wife and two daughters in the UK. In the show Jamie runs into all sorts of challenges. He cooks for a school where the kids don’t like anything healthy, have no idea what vegetables look like and exist on pizza and chicken nuggets. When he shows them how chicken nuggets are made (from chicken skin, bone and all the parts of the chicken no one would normally touch) the children cringe but are quite happy to eat the nuggets once they are formed into little balls and fried. He needs to get permission from the school superintendent to change the food in the lunches and so far in the show she has not been impressed. He has a constant battle with the school cooks who are unwilling to try anything new and are disgusted at cooking anything that hasn’t been previously processed and frozen.
The scariest part for me was learning about the red tape and rules that are involved in school lunches and how they are in fact a formula that is mandated by the USDA and other systems. For example, lunches have to have at least two carbohydrates. This usually consists of a hamburger bun and pizza or something even worse. (Terrible – as we all know carbs turn into sugar to create fat.) The lunches are also what the kids want to eat vs what is actually good for them. If the kids don’t like something then it doesn’t go on the menu for lunch. But, of course kids will choose pizza and fries!! How crazy can you get!? To bend the rules at schools like this it is like rewriting the Bible. Very, very scary. It turns out that America has created a system that with all good intentions has turned into the worst diet ever and is creating teenage diabetics. So sad. Good on you Jamie and Ryan for coming up with a show that is not only relevant and necessary, but will get the message across to those who need to hear it.
The other interesting thing about this is that Jamie is a British chef. I have not seen any American chef go to these lengths to help create awareness for a national cause that is being swept under the carpet. Congrats Jamie for using your celebrity to draw attention to one of America’s less talked about, but most important health causes.
To sign Jamie’s petition for healthier food in schools you can go to jamiesfoodrevolution.com.
Jamie won the 2010 TED award for his work for this cause. Take a look at this video where he explains more on this topic: