April 23rd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
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
Read More:Jamie Oliver’s Season Finale: The “Revolution” Verdict
April 16th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
When the community of Huntington, WV, watched the season premiere of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, they had mixed feelings about how the British chef would interact with their friends and neighbors.
As resident Amy Gannon, a registered dietitian, told the town’s Herald-Dispatch newspaper: “Basically, Jamie Oliver has picked up on the obesity epidemic. I’m sure that he has good intentions for Huntington, but I know this is a reality show. He will show people that are resistant to change. I believe the idea is for Jamie to ride in on his white horse and save us all from ourselves.”
For Oliver, Huntington is representative of many U.S. and British towns, where radical shifts have occurred in the food industry.
“[We’ve] gone from an army of mom-and-pop restaurants and real signature dishes of [these areas] to largely only fast-food chains,” he says. And West Virginia, he notes, “has more small farms than any other state in America,” yet produce seems limited.
Oliver, who has focused primarily on school nutrition, remains passionate about revamping cafeteria menus.
“You put those beautiful little kids in school 180 days of the year, from [ages] 4 to 18, and nearly every choice is still a version of junk food,” he says.
Ultimately, it will be up to Huntington’s leaders to decide whether they want to implement Oliver’s changes.
“You’ll see, as the show unravels, it’s not a show that ends with a happy ending, but more of a passing over of the baton,” he says.
“It’s for them to make it,” he adds. “It was always about finding local ambassadors of change and really embedding high hopes for everyone.”
Tonight on “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” (9 p.m. ET/PT, ABC)
In Episode 5 of 6, Oliver places the burden of change squarely on the shoulders of Huntington High School students by asking them to choose between a lunch menu of processed junk food or fresh fare—and he’s shocked by their response.
His faith is shaken when he is forced to rely on the testimony of his biggest adversary, elementary school head cook Alice Gue, to help convince local hospital administrators to fund training for school cooks and provide sustainable resources to roll out the food revolution in Huntington.
Photo: Holly Farrell/ABC
Read More:Will “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” Succeed?
April 9th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
When asked about the recently proposed federal guidelines for foods sold at U.S. schools, British celebrity chef and Food Revolution host Jamie Oliver says they’re “definitely a step in the right direction.”
He is, however, concerned about how schools will fiscally implement any final rules.
“It’s great that we’ve got new standards being put forward,” he says. “However, if the right amount of funds aren’t delivered in conjunction with the standards, then [schools] won’t be able to implement the standards.”
Oliver believes revamping school food programs will succeed or fail based on “the training and empowerment and love given to school cooks.” Proper training, he says, will increase their motivation to help combat America’s childhood obesity epidemic.
School cooks will “understand it, they’ll be inspired, they’ll feel important,” he says.
“We’re not even anywhere near what needs to be put forward,” Oliver adds. “[Obesity] is killing children—your children. It’s changing the face of health and the health of Americans. And I think that we need to put into context the amount of money that needs to fix 30 and 40 years of, really, lack of investment—let’s be frank.
“I know money is everything,” he continues, “but let’s remember how much is being spent on war every month, to put it in perspective.”
Tonight on “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” (9 p.m. ET/PT, ABC)
In Episode 4 of 6, Oliver realizes the importance of moving his food revolution beyond the schools to involve the entire community of Huntington, West Virginia. He organizes a 1,000-person educational cook-a-thon, with participants ranging from steelworkers and firemen to parents and government officials.
Photo: Holly Farrell/ABC
Read More:School Lunch Guidelines: Jamie Oliver’s Take
March 31st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Numerous public health groups are praising the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry for unanimously approving a bipartisan bill that establishes federal nutrition standards for foods sold on school campuses.
“Nearly 24 million Americans have diabetes, and an additional 57 million—or 1 in 5 Americans—have pre-diabetes,” says Christine T. Tobin, RN, MBA, president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association. “If current trends continue, one in three children will face a future with diabetes. Sensible nutrition policies like this one, which will provide our students with healthy food choices in their schools, will help us reverse these trends. Starting with strong nutrition standards in our nation’s schools will put us on the path to stop diabetes.”
“Obesity, which results from poor diet and physical inactivity, is a significant and growing American problem that begins in childhood,” says Molly Daniels, interim president of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.
“American Cancer Society research clearly shows that obesity correlates with and causes cancer,” she adds. “Adoption of national school nutrition standards will be an important tool for obesity prevention for children.”
“Each school day, parents entrust schools to care for their children all across our nation,” says National PTA President Charles J. Saylors. “Ensuring that salty, fatty junk foods and sugary drinks are no longer an option in our schools truly honors that trust and opens students up to healthier options.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children
Read More:Public Health Groups Applaud School Nutrition Guidelines
March 26th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry has unanimously approved the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which reauthorizes the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, while also establishing federal nutrition standards for foods sold on campuses.
In an attempt to address epidemic levels of childhood obesity, the bill requires the Secretary of Agriculture to designate school standards consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
“As a mother of two boys, it’s important to know that healthy, more nutritious foods will be more widely available throughout school campuses,” said Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln (D-AR).
“When it comes to what our kids eat at school, we need to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” added Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA). “That means ensuring that kids have the ability to choose from foods that meet science-based nutrition standards. This agreement provides a commonsense approach to healthy eating, and it starts in a place where our kids spend the majority of their day: their schools. With childhood obesity and diabetes on the rise, it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
“Current nutrition standards haven’t been updated since my children were in school in the 1970s,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA). “Today, my grandchildren are in school and are faced with the same junk food choices that should have been replaced years ago. It’s long past time to bring these school food standards into the 21st century, and I am pleased that, with this agreement, we are one step closer to passing these changes into law.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Free for All: Fixing School Food in America
Read More:School Nutrition Guidelines Pass Senate Committee
August 15th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
OK, get your mind out of the gutter. Let’s get down to business.
Lest you believe I routinely champion the all-American hot dog, let me voice my support for one of the Cancer Project’s important causes: purging hot dogs from school lunch menus.
Adults can make their own dietary choices—the good and the bad, the ugly and the “wurst.” As I wrote Tuesday about the Denny’s excess-sodium lawsuit: “Eating a Denny’s Scramble is a personal decision. Eating a healthy organic diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, is a more sensible one.”
Children, however, are captive audiences. I’ve long decried the insufferable advertising campaigns that fast-food chains have conducted to McBribe them. The Cancer Project also condemns such tactics, and I applaud their lobbying efforts to send school-supplied hot dogs straight to detention.
“As a physician in the Greater Philadelphia area, I have seen unhealthful foods increasingly contribute to Pennsylvania’s epidemic of obesity and other medical problems, especially in our young,” says family practitioner Ana M. Negrón, MD, a member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). “Sadly, this problem is occurring nationwide. Hot dogs and other processed meats contain artery-clogging fat and cholesterol.”
PCRM petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture in October “to stop offering processed meats for purchase, subsidy and reimbursement under the federal school breakfast and lunch programs,” Dr. Negrón says. “The petition asks the USDA to encourage schools to include alternatives to processed meat products.”
“When parents, schools and doctors come together and demand more fresh fruits, carrots, broccoli and other vegetables; nutritious meatless options, such as rice and beans, oats and other whole grains; and model healthful nutrition, the children will learn to demand it for themselves,” she concludes. “In the meantime, it’s up to the adults to ensure that children are making healthier choices.”
For resources on changing your school district’s menu options, visit Chef Ann Cooper’s website. The “renegade lunch lady,” who sat on the National Organic Standards Board, has issued a National School Food Challenge.
Read More:Pull the Wieners