With the gorgeous weather we've been having lately, you may not have had the chance to catch the 6-week tv show on ABC, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Well my little dumplings, time to set the dvr or check it out on Hulu, because this guy really is trying to start a revolution.
Here's the premise, from Oliver's website: Jamie has made a new series for American TV about food – how families eat, what kids get at school and why, like the UK, the diet of processed food and snacks is causing so many health and obesity problems. The series was filmed in Huntington, West Virginia. Jamie's challenge was to see if he can get a whole community cooking again. He worked with the school lunch ladies and local families to get everyone back in the kitchen and making tasty meals with fresh ingredients – no packets, no cheating. He's started a Food Revolution: to get people all over America to reconnect with their food and change the way they eat.
It should go without saying that Oliver is going to get a lot of grief along the way. After all, he's going to West Virginia from the UK and stepping in somewhere he hasn't been asked and telling those folks that they're wrong. Yeow! No one likes being told they're wrong, especially by someone they don't even know. It's sorta like going out and having a stranger come up to tell you not only that your dress is ugly, but that you're looking a little chunky too and maybe you should take care of that. Now.
The cooks at the elementary school hate Oliver (seriously though, who doesn't want to launch into a chorus of Adam Sandler's Lunch Lady Land every time you see Alice??), the guy at the radio station really hates him, and the administrators seem to be smiling while on camera because they know they're kinda hosed, and they're not to crazy about him either. You gotta appreciate a guy who knows he's walking into this situation and does it anyway, even if it is for good tv.
But here's the bitter pill to swallow: He's right. Truth be told, though I've searched the CDC website and all over the web, I haven't been able to locate the specific statistics that show Huntington, WV as the "unhealthiest city" in America. But Huntington, WV is representative of, well, us. And by us no, I don't mean Frederick, but really the country as a whole.
It seems to me that Oliver is using this one town (and tv show) to put his ideas out there. He's had success with this program in the UK schools (albeit there are many, many fewer schools than in the US) and for some reason has decided to bring his message across the pond. If anything, simply dragging the issue out and slapping us across the face with it at least garners some recognition for the problem. In my own home in the last week, it's become a topic of discussion with a real focus on the lunches (and breakfasts, and dinners) that my kids and family as a whole are eating.
People are going to complain, endlessly I'm sure, about Oliver, his mission, and how we don't need him. Folks will say he's misguided and that he's doing it all wrong. Baloney. He's doing it exactly right, because now we're talking about it, aren't we?
The funniest thing so far has to be the reports that the kids in the schools Oliver touched don't like the food. Well, uh, big fat DUH there. If you eat a steady diet of pizza, fries, and burgers, and someone switches it out for (not fried) chicken and salad, heck yeah, you're gonna complain. But this stems again to everyone abdicating their adult responsibility to the kids. Our role as adults is to teach our children well (thanks Crosby, Stills, & Nash), not to give them everything they want. I'm hoping that someday, grown-ups start to understand that again.
What I love about Oliver's approach, and what I've been preaching myself for years (**cue back-patting**) is that he wants to teach people how to cook. He wants kids to cook for themselves and he really thinks they can do it. Amen brother, amen. Sort of a "teach a man to fish" moment, eh? Getting teens and tweens into the kitchen, and using way more than just the microwave is fundamental to teaching good eating habits. There are a ton of parents out there who really get this. I think that's why our summer cooking camps and afterschool programs are selling so well. Parents recognize a need and we are here to fill it. How cool is that?
So many parents are starting to grasp this concept, that I've been asked to host an assembly at a local elementary school to talk about their new school garden and the veggies they'll be growing. How much fun will that be!? I see flying broccoli in my future...
The bottom line is this: If you have kids, teens, or tweens in school and you don't know what they're eating, find out. Have a conversation with your kids and get them involved with their food. Take responsibility for at least knowing the food that goes into your family's mouths.