You Say You Want A Revolution?

Have you been watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution? I’ve been watching with mixed feelings of frustration and fascination. Having been a fan of Jamie Oliver since his days as “The Naked Chef,” I was excited to find out about his new project in the town of Huntington, West Virginia. Apparently, after hearing that Huntington was rated by the CDC as the “Unhealthiest City in America,” Oliver decided to move into town (with his camera crew) and over the course of three months helped educate the community on the benefits of eating fresh, healthy foods over packaged and processed junk. He worked directly with families in the community, held cooking classes for people of all ages, and tried to revamp the school district’s entire lunch program. Of course, the arrival of a celebrity chef telling everyone how they should eat wasn’t welcomed by all and Oliver initially took a lot of criticism from some residents who thought he was out to make Huntington look bad in the name making television. Whatever your feelings about reality tv are though, Jamie has already had success running a similar program back in England- taking over the school meal program in Greenwich and leading the charge to get more government funding for healthier meals for school children.

Let’s face it: Nobody likes to be told that was they are doing is wrong or bad, especially when it comes to our children. As a parent myself, the last thing I want is someone coming in and telling me how to raise my kids. However, when Oliver walked in to an elementary school cafeteria on his first day and saw all the kids eating pizza for breakfast I cringed. This frustration was only compounded as I watched kindergartners who literally could not identify basic foods like tomatoes, cauliflower and broccoli. (No surprise they all knew what a chicken nugget was before he could even ask!) When an overweight 12-year-old boy in a family Jamie is mentoring is told he may be developing diabetes I wanted to cry. Despite revelations like these, Oliver was still met with opposition from many people in town, including some of the cafeteria cooks, school administrators and even a local radio host who claimed that there was nothing Jamie could do for the people of Huntington and that he was wasting their time. And thus, the drama of reality television begins to ensue…

I have no doubt that the people producing the program is thinking first and foremost about what makes good tv. That being said, Jamie Oliver himself seems genuinely sincere about his cause and his energy and devotion to changing peoples lives and building a sense of community around healthy eating is kind of infectious. For instance, the flash mob he organized to get the word out about his kitchen was fabulous:


I really recommend tuning in to the last few episodes of the show. You can also find the previous week’s episodes online at Hulu.com. Our attitude towards food in this country and our denial about how it’s slowly killing many of us is frightening and I applaud people like Jamie Oliver who are genuinely trying to make a difference. I really, really hope that what he is doing takes hold. Also, when can we get him here in Milwaukee?

What: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution
When: Friday at 8pm on ABC

You can also watch Jamie Oliver’s talk from the 2010 TED Prize conference where he was given this year’s award to help realize his One Wish to Change the World: “Teach Every Child About Food.”


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