Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jamie Oliver and the Ugly Truth

I watched the second episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution last night and... yikes. Have you tuned in?

The gist of the show is this - Chef Jamie Oliver has come to Huntington, West Virginia (the most unhealthy/fattest city in America, according to the Center for Disease Control) to change the way that people feed themselves and their families, with a particular focus on adding fresh foods to school lunch programs. Who could possibly have a problem with someone willing to get their kids excited about eating fresh, healthy foods? As it turns out, the very people who you'd expect to advocate for these kids - school principals, cooks, nutritionists and worst of all, their parents.

I was straight-up thunderstruck by how completely apathetic most of the adults in charge of nourishing these kids were. One cafeteria cook defended the quality of a pre-cooked, processed chicken nuggety-thing by pointing out that chicken was the number one ingredient. By what margin is it number one? And what about the other 20 four-syllable ingredients?!?

Even for a organicy-granola girl like me, this has been a wake up call. I don't feed my kids too much of anything that comes in a package or box, and they can recognize and name most fruits and veggies on site, unlike an entire classroom of kids on the show, who only understood what a tomato was after it was revealed that ketchup is actually made from tomatoes.

My husband shared my outrage and kept saying The kids in our neighborhood would know all of those veggies! And he's right. We are lucky to live in a time and place where nutrition, health, variety and simplicity are very much of value. Our daughters' school even has it's own gardens that the kids plant, maintain and harvest to eat themselves and share with the food bank. They know where food comes from and what it takes to make it happen. The same cannot (yet) be said for the kids of Huntington, West Virginia, nor could it have been said for many kids of my generation, growing up in the 70's and 80's.

I'll be the first to admit that I grew up eating the standard lower-middle class fare of the 1980's - pop tarts, frozen pizzas, twinkies, drive-thru burgers and orange soda. I also had a weight problem from an early age. It was the product of a perfect storm of hectic lifestyles, a shift in value away from farms and food to cities and status symbols, and vast, convincing misinformation campaigns by processed food manufacturers that assured our parents that sugar-laden, fatty, highly-processed breakfast cereals were the right way to start their kids' day because they contained 8 essential vitamins and minerals! Sure, it will keep you alive, but for how long?

Making people stop and think about what they are putting into their bodies, and more importantly, what they are teaching their kids to put in their bodies is what Jamie's Food Revolution is all about. Check it out and sign the petition, if you are so inclined. But most importantly, feed your family well. For starters, if you need a chemistry 102 textbook to decipher a food's ingredient list, don't eat it. ;)


  1. I have only seen excerpts of the video when he gave his talk at the TED conference. I guess I should check and see if my local library has it available although I don't know if I can stomach it. Really, the lady was trying to defend chicken nuggets?? Yeah, I am soooo thinking of an experiment to run now on my blog... :) Coming soon: chicken nuggets vs. real food!

  2. My kids have taken to NOT wanting to eat our school lunches, cause they say they just don't taste good. But our school buys a lot of "prepackaged foods" so I'm happy if they want to pack something nutritious every day. Although it does get challenging because there is no way for them to re-heat food!! We have a friend that is doing some work around our house - his "fee" - home cooked meals every night he is there working. I think I should be able to handle that! lol

  3. My girls also prefer home lunch, but we face the same challenge as you do. If they can't reheat food, what does that leave? Sandwiches, pretty much.
    We're lucky in that our school lunch program is actually pretty good to begin with. They offer a lot of whole grains, organic foods and they have a salad bar that the kids can pick and choose from.
    Man, I wish I could get a little help around the house for the price of a meal! You must be an incredible cook!