Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

    In an effort to save a few dollars, and the soul of our daughter, we canceled our basic cable subscription a few months ago. I miss Turner Classic Movies, but, other than that, I don’t have any regrets. l catch local news at the gym, and the few network shows I do watch, like Caprica and 30 Rock, can be found online. The bad thing is, as we’re never just sitting around, flipping channels, we rarely happen across new shows that are worth a damn. Last night, though, we stumbled across a new show, thanks to an article, that we really liked, and I thought that I should mention it. It’s Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Last night, instead of working, Linette and I watched three episodes and found it not only quite compelling, but genuinely moving.

    If you’re not familiar with the premise of the show, basically it chronicles Oliver’s attempts to get the citizens of America’s least healthy city – Huntington, West Virginia – to cut processed food from their diets, and embrace the lost art of cooking real foods. If you’ve followed the young British chef’s career, you’ll know this isn’t exactly anything new for him. He’s been fighting the same crusade in England for a few years now.

    [The last time I mentioned Oliver here on the site was a couple of years ago. I reposted video from British television of Oliver and a doctor by the name of Gunther von Hagen dissecting a 350-pound man. The image of the black, cannon ball-like heart that they removed from the man's chest made a huge impression on me, and I wanted to share it with you.]

    And, yeah, I could easily poke fun. The show is chock full of trumped up drama, and silly gimmicks. But, if you can get beyond the scenes of the lovable mockney chef scaling a mountain of animal fat that he’s had dumped into a schoolyard, and the stuff that comes across as agitprop, I think you’ll find that there’s actually a pretty decent heart beneath it all. Sure, it could be better, but, given that it’s a primetime, ad-supported network show, I’m impressed by just how far they do go. Maybe I’m gullible as hell, but I think he really believes this stuff, and I don’t think it’s just about cashing a paycheck. At any rate, I think it’s worth checking out.

    [It could all be public relations spin, but word is that he created his Fifteen Foundation in England in 2002 by putting his house up for collateral, without his wife's knowledge. Since then, each year the organization has taken 15 young people in London with not so brilliant prospects, due to problems with the law, drugs or poverty, and trained them in the restaurant business. (Other Fifteen restaurants have since been opened in Amsterdam, Cornwall and Melbourne.)]

    Here are a few clips from the show.

    Given the popularity of Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, the critical aclaim that the documentary Food Inc. has been receiving, the efforts of public figures, like Michelle Obama, and the popularity of Oliver’s series in the UK, it’s not a surprise to me that ABC would see some potential in a relatively inexpensive reality series following the funny sounding chef through Huntington, as he struggles to make people give a damn about what they’re putting in their bodies. But, I’ve got to think that it’s something of a gamble with advertisers, and companies in bed with Disney, the parent company of ABC… If one of you out there has some time this Friday night, I’d love to see a list of who the advertisers are for this series, which really calls into question a lot of our beliefs on food. Given the strong anti-McNugget message, for instance, I can’t imagine that they’re getting much in the way of fast food support, but I suppose those companies could take the opportunity to mention that they now sell salads and the like, in addition to the ground up, deep friend, chemical-rich carcass nuggets our kids are so crazy for.

    To date, over 170,000 have signed Oliver’s online pledge to improve school food and teach cooking skills. If you want to sign, click here.

    note: Episodes of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution can be found on Hulu… And, on April 21, PBS will begin airing of Food, Inc.

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      18 Comments

      1. Posted April 4, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

        Mark, I think you’ve successfully weirded me out, but perhaps not in the way you intended. There are a grand total of three shows I regularly watch (via the Internet): Caprica, 30 Rock, and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Yep, the same three you mention.

        I actually really like the show, except for the fact 2 out of 3 episodes have made me cry. :) But in a good way, in a good way…

        Lisa

      2. Edward
        Posted April 5, 2010 at 6:52 am | Permalink

        The interesting part to me is the question of how to bring “real” food into schools in an affordable way. Right now, kitchen staff just reheats and serves. To do this, you need to actually have them cook. While the ingredients may be comparable in price, “real” food takes over twice the amount of time to prepare. Personally, I think it’s worth the investment, but, given the budgets these days, I think it would be difficult to make the case as to why more kitchen staff should be hired as teachers are being let go.

      3. Rex
        Posted April 5, 2010 at 8:48 am | Permalink

        I agree that this show is a bit overly-dramatic, but it has to do that to fit into its format. It makes me really uncomfortable at times, and also makes me want to cry. The scene where the elementary school cook is protesting that their processed chicken bits are real food because chicken is the first ingredient listed really shows that our country needs a re-education.
        Ed, the most recent episode of Food Revolution has Jamie trying to raise money to re-train the kitchen staff to actually cook. It is crazy how much equipment they have and how little it is actually used.

      4. Ted
        Posted April 5, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink

        How can you not cry when a whole room of 6 year olds can’t identify a tomato?

        My hope is that the producers had all of the even remotely smart students leave before taping that segment, but I doubt it.

      5. Gerty Bob
        Posted April 5, 2010 at 10:48 am | Permalink

        If you watch the clip of his show in England that Mark has linked to in the post, you’ll see him showing kids what chicken nuggets are made of. He grinds up a chicken carcass and throws in a bunch of skin and bread crumbs, and then he forms the paste into nuggets and fries them. The kids in England are appropriately disgusted. He does the same thing in an American school, however, and the kids don’t care. They want to eat them, even knowing what they’re made of. Granted, the kids are younger in the American school, but you would still hope that one or two might be repulsed. As Ted alludes to, though, the producers may have selected kids that they knew would give that response.

      6. Larry Seven Larry
        Posted April 5, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        UK’s Daily Mail has a good article on the series today. Here’s a quote………

        It didn’t help when Jamie said in an interview that what he’d witnessed would ‘make the hairs raise on the back of your arm’. Or that West Virginians were a surprisingly sensitive lot to start with.

        ‘We’ve got a history of abuse,’ explains Mayor Wolfe. ‘We’ve been called hillbillies, backwards, barefoot and uneducated, so it hurts when people come in and criticise us.’

        But if anyone can sort it out, it’s Jamie Oliver. His UK campaign was the impetus for the British government to invest £612million in overhauling school lunches.
        Jamie Oliver finds American kids difficult to PEAS

        Hard to peas: Jamie Oliver tries to get children from Huntington, West Virginia interested in vegetables as part of his new show Food Revolution

        Just this week it was announced his menus have significantly improved test results and led to fewer sick days. Whatever the reaction to Jamie — and as the series continues, it’s improving — there’s no doubt Huntington has a problem……..

        What does make me cry is my visit to the Chapman Mortuary, where funeral director Charles Chapman tells me that, even in death, obesity is a nightmare. Not only have sales of XXL coffins more than tripled in Huntington, but funeral homes have had to bring in specialist lifting equipment to cope with the huge bodies…….

        Read more:
        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1263142/Burgers-big-dustbin-lids-coffins-need-cranes-obese-children-having-heart-attacks–supersized-US-town-causing-Jamie-Oliver-despair.html#ixzz0kFIuQux2

      7. Peter Larson
        Posted April 5, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

        Wow, Mark, a show that lets smug urban liberals laugh at how stupid people in red states are, all at the expense of a bunch of kids. No wonder they hate us. How about having the fleabaggers make a show about how stupid children of blue states are by taking them out and having them shovel shit all day on a farm. They can start with your daughter. It would be a riot.

        It’s not the laughing at red states that bothers me. It’s that they chose kids to do it. Granted, I haven’t seen the show, but that my take home message here.

      8. Billy
        Posted April 5, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

        Mr. Larson…I would respect you more if you said that after actually watching the show. Not that you need or desire my respect, but you sound a tad silly with that statement. Is there still snow on YOUR mountain top?

      9. Posted April 5, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

        Pete, you should check an episode out. There’s very little making fun of the folks of Huntington. It’s quite the opposite. I think you’d be surprised… As someone whose kin folk come from West Virginia, I’m sensitive to that kind of stuff, and I didn’t sense it here.

      10. Peter Larson
        Posted April 5, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

        OK, Billy, I watched it. My opinion hasn’t changed, silly as it may sound to you.

        ‘We’ve got a history of abuse,’ explains Mayor Wolfe. ‘We’ve been called hillbillies, backwards, barefoot and uneducated, so it hurts when people come in and criticise us.’

        Yet, here we are, parading poor, stupid white kids across TV and editing it to make them look even dumber.

      11. Peter Larson
        Posted April 5, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

        I only watched the first one. I’ll check out the rest. I’m, of course, interested in kids eating better, I just question the motivations of the people who made the show.

      12. Billy
        Posted April 6, 2010 at 7:08 am | Permalink

        Petey,
        It doesn’t sound silly to me at all. That’s your opinion, and I have to say, I don’t agree with all of the food snobbery that goes on today either. I just thought you should check something out before you give an opinion on it. I wouldn’t tell you that the show 24 sucked, and Jack Bauer was a pussy…because I’ve never watched the show.

      13. Billy
        Posted April 6, 2010 at 7:12 am | Permalink

        I also find it funny that you get pissed that the show was horrible because they “are parading poor, stupid white kids across TV and editing it to make them look even dumber”…you just insulted them, and called them stupid yourself. So why don’t you stop degrading them on this blog? Do words just fall out of your mouth, or do they check in with your brain first? I don’t think they do, sir.

      14. Peter Larson
        Posted April 6, 2010 at 7:26 am | Permalink

        I also find it funny that you get pissed that the show was horrible because they “are parading poor, stupid white kids across TV and editing it to make them look even dumber”…you just insulted them, and called them stupid yourself.

        Uhh…. sarcasm? The show doesn’t piss me off as much as the incredible amount of food snobbery that gets paraded around by the left and on Mr. Maynard’s site. In this case, on top of the snobbery, these producers have picked children as their targets. I think that’s wrong. I’m sorry that you do not agree.

      15. Sarah T
        Posted April 6, 2010 at 7:55 am | Permalink

        I see this as being an American epidemic, not just a southern one. Also, I’ve watched two episodes of the show now, and I don’t find it to be at all condescending. I don’t get the sense at all that they went south so that they could poke fun at stupid people. I think they went to the area in the U.S. with the most need demographically speaking. What they’re talking about, however, is applicable everywhere. If you watch another episode, try number three. In that one, a lot of the high school kids talk for themselves, explaining their motivations for getting involved in Jamie’s initiative. They don’t come across as stupid at all.

      16. jean
        Posted April 6, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        Congrats, Mark, on cutting the cable. I did the same 5 years ago and my kids still get plenty o’ media, but no Disney and a lot fewer ads. Life is simply more pleasant since. Absolutely nothing is missing.
        As for the real subject at hand, Jamie Oliver is a maverick and a publicity machine— all for the good. He throws his flair for drama and 800 pound gorilla celebrity chef status behind getting some important work done. He has a great track record of upending folks’ expectations, and he pulls no punches in condemning the US (and soon global) public health crisis caused by big food. Check out his Ted talk for a glimpse:
        http://www.ted.com/talks/jamie_oliver.html

      17. Kim
        Posted April 8, 2010 at 8:39 am | Permalink

        From Alternet:

        …At the end of one episode, we hear Rhonda McCoy, director of food services for the local county, tell Jamie that he’s over budget and did not meet the fat content and calorie guidelines, but she’s going to let him continue with the “revolution” as long as he addresses these issues. What is not revealed is that the “meal cost at Central City Elementary during television production more than doubled with ABC Productions paying the excess expense,” according to a document obtained by AlterNet from the West Virginia Department of Education….

        Ultimately, Jamie picked the wrong target. Dr. Carole Harris, who along with Dr. Drew Bradlyn evaluated student responses at Central City Elementary to the “Food Revolution” program, says factors such as sedentary lifestyles, fast-food consumption, family meal patterns and junk-food advertising aimed at children are “a much bigger problem than food served in schools.”

        Jan Poppendieck, author of Free for All: Fixing School Food in America, agrees that individual schools and districts are not the root of the problem. She says children who participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) “are more likely to eat healthy food” than kids who don’t. Participating children are more likely to consume “low or nonfat milk, fruits, vegetables and less likely to consume desserts, snack foods, juice drinks and carbonated soda at lunch” than students who do not eat the federally subsidized lunches.

        In the end, it won’t be the fact that kids don’t like it, but the fact that it’s prohibitively expensive that will kill the program;

        http://www.alternet.org/story/146354/how_tv_superchef_jamie_oliver%27s_%27food_revolution%27_flunked_out

      18. Meta
        Posted February 1, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink

        From the Global Mail:

        Victory for Jamie Oliver in the U.S. as McDonald’s is forced to stop using ‘pink slime’ in its burger recipe

        TV chef was disgusted to discover ammonium hydroxide was being used by McDonald’s to convert fatty beef offcuts into a beef filler for burgers

        ‘Why would any sensible human being want to put ammonia-filled meat into their children’s mouths? asked Jamie Oliver

        McDonald’s denies its hand had been forced by TV campaign

        Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2092127/Jamie-Oliver-Victory-McDonalds-stops-using-pink-slime-burger-recipe.html#ixzz1l8oB07wD

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      1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Maynard. Mark Maynard said: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution: In an effort to save a few dollars, and the soul of our daughter, we canceled our … http://bit.ly/a9gEAn [...]

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