Food Revolution

I’ve said it before: I love Jamie Oliver. I’ve never tried a recipe of his that I didn’t like, and I have always had a great deal of respect for his principles and the actions he takes to promote/defend those principles. Last fall, I posted a link to a NYT article about cooking with kids, feeling all tingly about his series this Spring on ABC: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.

The show did not disappoint. Jamie went to “the fattest town in America” to promote radical changes in lifestyle and nutrition, focusing mainly on schools. Love it. When I was teaching middle school, I worked in a high-poverty district (the government’s label, not mine), so over half of my students relied on school lunch and breakfast programs. I was constantly appalled by what they were eating for both meals. These kids started each morning with sugary cereals or packaged pastry products, washed down with chocolate milk or a Sunny-D-like product. You could actually see the crashes during second hour – they would run out of steam by 9:45, have a dopey 20 minutes while their blood sugars zoomed up and down, then spend the next two hours hungry and irritable. Then, they would eat breadsticks dipped in nacho cheese or pizza and fries for lunch. Those trays were disgusting. Similar crashes happened in the afternoon. Not surprisingly, we had a few behavior issues at our school, and our students were not always the healthiest. I understand that there are a lot of factors contributing to these issues, but diet was one that we could have fixed if we tried. Even though I haven’t been in the classroom for a few years, this problem still nags at me.

So, I cheered when I was what Jamie Oliver was going to attempt. I even overlooked the fact that Ryan Seacrest was producing it so that I could stay pumped about its premiere. It has been great to see the progress that Oliver made in Huntington, West Virginia, and to see all of the challenges this movement has faced along the way. The idea that everyone should know how to do basic cooking and what’s in the food they eat shouldn’t be revolutionary, but it has become so in this country. I highly recommend the episode in which Oliver makes chicken nuggets for a group of children, showing the rather revolting composition of most processed chicken products. I’m not sure which made me more nauseous: the process of creating the average chicken nugget or the fact that, even after admitting that it was gross, those kids all still ate the nuggets that Oliver prepared.

The series, which ABC airs on Friday nights at 8 p.m. CST, is starting to wind down now, but you can watch full episodes at to catch up before next week.

Oh, and for all of you Ryan Seacrest fans, I grudgingly admit that this is the second thing he’s done this year that has caused me to respect him. I might have to stop mocking the guy. Reluctant Hippie out.


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