Thoughts on “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution”

By now you may have heard about the new reality show “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” on ABC. In this engrossing program, my favorite celebrity chef leaves Great Britain behind to incite a food revolution in America. Starting with the town of Huntington, West Virginia—recently named the unhealthiest city in America—Oliver is determined to turn its residents (especially its children) away from the dietary dangers of processed food. Obesity and obesity-related diseases have been on the rise in our country for some time, and Oliver’s investigation into our school diets and eating habits leaves little doubt as to why. Fortunately, even after viewing his dramatic demonstrations involving chicken fat, garbage bags full of chocolate milk, and the burial of a deep fryer, I found a few glimmers of hope by the end of the second episode.

Photo: ABC

The first two episodes show Oliver facing the same problems as when he revamped Great Britain’s school lunch program: skepticism from the lunch ladies who have been trained to simply reheat frozen, processed foods filled with sodium and artificial preservatives; kids who spit out fresh pasta and vegetables in favor of chicken nuggets (and turkey twizzlers in England); and administrators wary of the extra costs healthy food requires. But by the end of the second episode, Oliver has convinced the elementary school students to give his home-cooked meals a try, and has made significant progress with the obese Edwards family, teaching them about healthy eating and cooking, and using graphic scare tactics to direct them towards a whole foods diet.

While making these small steps, Oliver openly criticizes our government for our nation’s health issues, especially where school lunches are concerned. He blames the government for allowing processed junk into our schools in the first place, and for not providing funds for meals based on fresh fruit and vegetables. Children are being fed garbage for the sake of a manageable bottom line, and it’s helping to create the first generation of kids who will not live longer than their parents. Oliver forces the Edwards family to get check-ups (something they don’t do with regularity), and signs of impending diabetes are recognized in twelve-year-old Justin. While stating that he doesn’t understand what’s going on with our healthcare system, Oliver finds it “shocking, scary, and strange” that he had to be the one to take this family to the hospital. In just two hours of TV, he made many powerful and refreshing points about our general health and lifestyle.

Photo: ABC

While Oliver hands out a lot of criticism regarding fast food and government bureaucracy, the main point of his program is change. Turning away from processed foods is the first step towards claiming a healthy lifestyle. Step two is cooking with fresh fruits and vegetables so that you actually have a connection to your food, and step three is making this lifestyle accessible to everyone. I agree with Oliver that our government can and should help with these ideas, whether by example or through direct action. Some important seeds have already been planted, as with the recent passage of healthcare reform. Hopefully more families like the Edwards’s will visit their doctors and receive dietary advice in order to avoid illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. And in contrast to other recent administrations, Michelle Obama has focused her energies on ending child obesity. Her first step was planting an organic vegetable garden on White House property just last year, and now her Let’s Move program directly tackles childhood obesity at home and in schools. These efforts, combined with the increase in farmers’ markets, CSA’s, and programs such as Alice Water’s Edible Schoolyard will perhaps give Oliver less to complain about in the future.

Oliver’s show is fascinating, and I believe he truly cares about changing the eating habits of kids all around the world (even if he is trying to create compelling television at the same time). Watching him teach Justin Edwards how to cook chicken with noodles and fresh vegetables, while telling him how his self-esteem and health would change as soon as the weight started dropping off, brought tears to my eyes. The feelings it inspired relate to why I started this blog in the first place. Jamie Oliver understands that food is more about filling our stomachs. It’s a crucial key to our health and happiness. This is one revolution I can get behind.

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution airs on Fridays at 9 pm on ABC. This week Jamie Oliver heads to the kitchen at Huntington High School.


12 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    AnonymousHusband said,

    Have you seen his speech at TED? He goes into depth on healthy food relationships, obesity, and healthcare.

  2. 3

    Chef Dennis said,

    First let me say I really enjoy Jamie Oliver and love his books, and his idealism….but this show was so staged……and his tears just really pushed it over the edge. Its one thing to be passionate about what you do, but to have that kind of melt down really serves no purpose especially when it looks staged for TV.

    • 4

      Christina said,

      Hi Chef Dennis! I have to agree with you that the tears were a little over the top (although my DVR cut off Jamie’s big sobbing fit at the end of the first episode). I enjoyed the second episode much more, when he was working in the schools and with Justin Edwards more, and cut down on the drama a bit. I don’t believe that the show is staged, but it is very similar to Jamie’s documentary on changing school lunches in Great Britain. In that respect, he’s done many of these graphic demonstrations before with similar results. In any case, I am interested to see what sort of progress he makes in the next 4 episodes. Thanks so much for your comment!

  3. 5

    Nicole said,

    I just read that a survey found that women who cook take in 354 fewer calories per day than those who don’t.

    • 6

      Christina said,

      I think it’s amazing how much healthier home cooking is. Fast food is cheap and convenient, which must be the draw. However, raw ingredients bought from the supermarket are often pretty cheap, and so much healthier in the long run.

  4. 7

    i spent 5 hours watching all the episodes online. i was curious and then got absolutely hooked. i’m not a giant oliver fan, but this show shows him at his best – his empathy and care and straight-shooting way of expressing his feelings really work here. and usually i’m the first person to be cynical about over-emoting but i honestly disagree w/ you guys on his sobbing fit. i actually think it was real. in that moment i think he felt really bad that his words were being misconstrued and he was being looked at as someone wanting to do harm/slander vs. doing good. i think he was actually feeling bad for himself in that moment. and it’s true – he was living in bumblefuck america as an englishman for 4 months which is definitely a bit of a compromise to his family. i really think alot of his personal feelings in that moment just came out and the tears flowed. i really don’t think it was for TV and, believe me, i’d be the first to call someone out on a cheesy, fake moment. it’s gotta suck ass to just want to be there to help and have all your words twisted so it looks like you’re just there to exploit.

    i respect what he’s doing and as an educator in the NYC public school system, this subject is extremely close to my heart. i hope change comes soon – REAL soon.

    • 8

      Christina said,

      I do think Jamie’s feelings are sincere. I don’t think he was faking his tears; I believe that Jamie Oliver strongly believes in his mission and is really passionate about it. It was just a bit shocking to me to see that emotional display on television. I keep wondering why some of Huntington’s residents–especially the ones in positions of power–give Jamie such a hard time, when they obviously agreed to have him there in the first place! Regardless on how Jamie’s feelings are conveyed, I really hope that his show inspires change, especially where school lunches and children are concerned!

      Thanks for your comment!

  5. 9

    The Truth Seeker said,

    You folks have been had, Dennis is a fake Chef!

  6. 10

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  8. 12

    Justin Edwards said,

    I loved being on the show, I wish I could do it all over again. Worked with a great group of people! Its crazy that I was in 6th grade I’m the show and now I’m a senior.

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