Convincing an entire town to change its eating habits may be a herculean feat, but British chef Jamie Oliver never wanted to be perceived as a nutritional superhero.
“I’m not trying to pretend I’m bloody Superman or something like that because it’s just not the case,” says Oliver, whose Food Revolution finale airs tonight (9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC). “But I have a very strange job. I have this wonderful opportunity—a lifetime opportunity to help a country that I care about.”
As a father of three, Oliver has an emotional connection to the show.
“Kids are so open-minded, and they’re so up for the challenge of trying things,” he says. “Often, it’s the parents that ruin the kids’ opportunities. Everyone always blames the kids, but it’s really not the kids; it’s the adults.”
Food manufacturers, school districts and parents are in positions of power, Oliver says, and they’ve made “lots of bad decisions” over the last three generations. In both the United States and Britain, obesity rates have produced “the first generation of kids expected not to outlive their parents,” he notes.
“It’s that kind of stuff that gets me upset and always will,” he says.
The most important step in correcting poor dietary habits is learning how to cook, Oliver maintains.
“If you know how to cook four, five or 10 simple dishes that are affordable and nutritious, then you’ve got choices,” he says. “And if you can’t cook, you haven’t got choices.”
Tonight on “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution”
Oliver’s efforts have borne fruit, but now what?
In the final episode, everything he has accomplished unravels when he leaves Huntington, WV. School food personnel are planning to reintroduce processed food to use up the mountain of surplus foods previously ordered. Children’s parents are also pulling them out of Oliver’s lunch program, and most of the school cooks remain untrained and unwilling to learn.
With the media hounding him at every step and a city that’s revolting against his message, Oliver returns to pull off his most powerful demonstration yet. Is he too late?
Photo: Holly Farrell/ABC