I recently watched Jamie Oliver's new TV show on ABC, "Food Revolution" - or I should say that I tried to watch it. It was horrendous. Oliver, who made his name in the U.K. as the Naked Chef, is trying to help tackle the obesity problem in the U.S., starting with a a re-vamp of the school lunch program at an elementary school in Huntington, West Virginia. After winning the title of the fattest city in the U.S., you'd think Huntington's residents would at least be mildly concerned with their health, their children's health and the fact that the people of Huntington look like they're slowly being consumed by giant marshmallow bodies. I saw only one or two people in the first episode that actually had necks. The rest were - to put it bluntly - overweight and fat.
But the great people of Huntington showed Oliver that he'd have to pry their frozen pizzas, chicken fingers and chocolate milk from their cold, dead and fat hands before they'd covert to a diet of only "lettuce." They were rude, close-minded, and resistant with anything to do with changing their diet. The school lunch workers were more interested in doing their job than actually thinking about the ramifications of what they were doing to the kids. Apparently diabetes, heart disease and seeing your children balloon into slobs aren't enough to convince people to put down the fries. If the we really wanted to get people to care about obesity, the connection between being overweight and having erectile dysfunction should be at the top of the list. Want to have a good sex life? Lose some weight.
Poor Jamie Oliver. He's up against the worst of the worst. And things are so dire that a man who wrote a book titled "How to lose friends and alienate people," is giving Oliver advice on dealing with Huntington.
Some of Huntington's kids may never taste real chicken as what they're being served in the school cafeteria might list the first ingredient as "chicken" but then has a novel's worth of chemicals on the ingredients list. These kids probably consume more high fructose corn syrup than corn.
I work in a public school in a low-income neighborhood and see what the kids eat: fried chicken patties served along side ranch dressing, chocolate milk, burritos, deep-fried egg rolls and maybe an apple or pear (which as Jamie notes, always end up in the garbage). And the school uses Styrofoam plates. It's depressing.
But some places are doing it right. There's group in Berkeley, California doing the exact same thing as Jamie Oliver. The Berkeley School Lunch Initiative is teaching kids about nutrition, cooking and healthy eating. And the contrast between Berkeley and Huntington is vast. But before the old argument of Berkeley having its leftist hippie-now-wealthy parents take care of their food program, watch the video. Nearly 40% of school kids in Berkeley are living below the poverty level. And they still get feed fresh, healthy and delicious food.
This is proof that change can happen. Food doesn't have to be fake and kids can be healthy. Adults should have necks and not need to request the special fat chair without arms at the Olive Garden. Hopefully Huntington, West Virgina figures that out.