Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution
- January 26, 2011 |
- by Laurie David
So far Los Angeles has not been very welcoming to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver who recently relocated here with his family to shoot the next season of his show Food Revolution.
Apparently he has been denied access to any LAUSD school cafeteria. Not one to give up, last weekend Jaime took his plea to the “belly of the beast,” speaking to cafeteria administrators and workers at the California School Nutrition Association (CSNA) Convention in Pasadena, where he gave the keynote address (the video above is Jamie’s TED conference presentation from February 2010). Talking directly to the “lunch girls” and others involved in the district nutrition programs around the state, he said he was humbled to be there and more nervous speaking to them than anything else he had ever done. After several hard-hitting and skeptical questions from the audience, you could see why. The crowd did not trust him.
Why the nervousness and why the attitude from the audience? One of the reasons is that everywhere he goes he is up against people’s innate resistance to change. As a parent I don’t get it. The food kids are served in school is unacceptable. It’s not the 1950s anymore. We know a heck of a lot more now about nutrition, what is good for us and what is real. We can do better and we must do better.
The evidence is all around us. We have an epidemic of diet-related health problems unparalleled anywhere else in the world. One in three children in America is overweight and diabetes is now America’s number one killer. And, as Jamie said, the school cafeteria is one of the first places where we can start to get a handle on these devastating problems. So shouldn’t we be thanking him for dedicating his time, energy, and resources to try and help us? Why is change so darn hard? And slow?
The guy doesn’t have to be doing this. He doesn’t need the money or the fame. For Jaime I believe it is a moral imperative. As a chef and a dad he knows it is just plain wrong to be setting our children and nation up for a lifetime of obesity and all the illnesses and costs to individual lives, our communities and our nation that come with it. School kids consume 30 to 50 percent of their calories from school cafeterias. You know the old adage, you are what you eat? Well, science continues to prove our brains need nutrients to thrive – nutrients that come from fruits and vegetables, not the empty calories of sugar, salt and fat that comprise most school meals. It’s criminal not to give our children real food, made fresh from real ingredients that will help them learn, concentrate, thrive and grow – physically and mentally.
But the biggest surprise for me from this convention was something that many of the attendees repeated over and over again: By the time kids are in school, their eating habits are formed and ingrained. They already have attitudes about vegetables (yuck!) and when given choices about what to eat, they are making bad ones. Their early food education has included fast food, soda, and too much meat. Not to mention how they have been bombarded with clever sparkly television commercials equating fun and happiness with junk food, candy and sugar coated anything. Not the best foundation for choosing the carrots over the fries.
Attending the CSNA, where I got to speak with the cafeteria representatives from around the state and listen to Jamie Oliver, underscored how important, even life changing, it is to have regular family dinners. The simple act of sitting around the table together and eating fresh, home-cooked food. The early exposure to different tastes, colors and textures is critical for developing a child’s palate. It all starts at the family dinner table and has to be modeled by mom and dad. Otherwise we are sending our kids to the school cafeteria ill-equipped to make healthy choices that will impact their education and health. As parents it is our responsibility to teach our children how to make the right food choices and to fulfill Jamie’s shockingly sensible mission: To expect more from the school lunch program. The “lunch girls” are not to be blamed. These are our children. Let us expect more from ourselves by having regular family dinners, full of fresh foods and vegetables, enabling our children to make better choices outside of the home and let us expect more from our school lunch programs by demanding that they serve healthy, nutritious food, helping our children learn and thrive – inside and outside of the classroom. Working together. Now THAT would be a food revolution!