Could Jamie Oliver Really Lead a Revolution?
British chef Jamie Oliver has brought his simple, healthy cooking to the United States with his new ABC show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. The show has earned high ratings and plenty of fans, but can he actually change the way Americans eat?
He certainly has a lot of opposition. The show’s first few episodes chronicle Jamie’s time in Huntington, West Virginia, the unhealthiest town in America. It’s hard to tell how much is being exaggerated by the show’s producers, but local radio host DJ Rod is an outspoken critic of Jamie’s, saying that the local people don’t want to change. Meanwhile, tough lunch lady Alice resists all of Jamie’s changes – using real potatoes instead of magic “pearls,” preparing fresh fruits and vegetables, etc – because of the extra time and cost required.
I think the best evidence that Jamie has a chance to change America is that he did exactly that over in Britain. The New York Times reports that because of his award-winning show Jamie’s School Dinners, the British government invested over a billion dollars in an overhaul of school meals there.
Change is never easy. We can’t force Americans to put down the french fries and chow down on spinach instead. But guiding and empowering children to eat healthy is an investment in our future. Children need to be told what to eat. I have heard some mothers say that their kids are picky and “only eat french fries” – but they wouldn’t be able to eat french fries if they weren’t served french fries. A recent Los Angeles Times article discussed how the trend of giving even active children snacks has gotten out of control.
Charlene Miller, a South Pasadena, Calif., mother of two boys, said, “There’s a lot of peer pressure” to ply kids with treats.
At the beginning of basketball season this year, the coach of her 6-year-old son’s team ignited a parental rebellion when he said there was no need for an organized snack after the kids’ Saturday morning games.
“Some parents got really upset and said, ‘But our kids expect a snack,’ ” Miller said. The coach relented, and each of Charlie Miller’s teammates regularly gets a “snack bag” — often chips, a packet of fruit-flavored candy and a sports drink — before going home to lunch.
The kids only expect a snack because parents have conditioned them that way. Just because kids want to eat potato chips – or drink flavored milk with more sugar than soda, in the case of the school Jamie Oliver worked at in Huntington – doesn’t mean we should let them.
Our current generation of kids will live shorter lives than their parents. It’s time to do something, and I applaud Jamie’s efforts to mobilize parents and concerned citizens everywhere. To join the fight, go to the show’s website at ABC and sign Jamie’s petition!
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution airs Fridays @ 9 on ABC.
And check out this clip from the show: