The ABC TV show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, follows British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver as he tries to convince residents of a West Virginia community to eat healthier. He begins by proposing a new menu for school lunches.
Oliver started a similar school lunch program in his homeland called School Dinners. According to U.K. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, Oliver’s actions have driven the kids away from school food.
He said, “Jamie Oliver, quite rightly, was talking about trying to improve the diet of children in schools and improving school meals, but the net effect was the number of children eating school meals in many of these places didn’t go up, it went down. So then the schools said: ‘It’s OK to bring packed lunches but we’ve got to determine what’s in the packed lunches.’ To which the parents’ response was that they gave children money, and children are actually spending more money outside school, buying snacks in local shops, instead of on school lunches.”
Lansley also said, “If we are constantly lecturing people and trying to tell them what to do, we will actually find that we undermine and are counterproductive in the results that we achieve.”
Oliver responded and said, “I’m not encouraged by the news that the new health minister has summed up eight years of hard work in a few lines for the sake of a headline. To say School Dinners hasn’t worked is not just inaccurate but is also an insult to the hard work of hundreds of thousands of dinner ladies, teachers, headteachers and parent helpers who strive to feed school kids a nutritious, hot meal for 190 days of the year.”
He continued, ”Any problems that we’ve been having in school meals is more often than not down to continuing lack of funds for training of school catering staff. But although the minister has simplified the school dinners situation for an easy headline, he is right in one respect. Yes, people need government support to make key lifestyle changes to improve public health.”
”What better way to show support than to invest in education so that all children can have compulsory cooking lessons and all adults can have access to a food centre which teaches core cooking skills and how to cook fresh, tasty, affordable and nutritious food?”
Oliver concluded, “I hope that [the minister and I] can meet soon so I can hear more about his practical ideas for ensuring this generation of children doesn’t die earlier than their parents.”
On this side of the ocean, ABC has yet to decide if Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution will be back for a second season. The series didn’t get very good ratings but it is a feel-good show that likely doesn’t cost a lot to produce.
What do you think? Do you think there’s value in what Oliver is trying to do? Do people simply need education to eat better or is the problem a lot more complex?