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