Saturday, April 3, 2010

Jamie Oliver's School Dinners

I was reading more about all the work Jamie Oliver has done in Britain with revamping school lunches, changing them from processed foods to healthier foods. I'd really like to see his shows that document the process, the first series where he initiated the changes, and the second one where he went back to see how things were going. He started this several years ago, so there is more data about the results and progress. The changes in the schools are going slow, but already there is evidence that the kids are healthier...fewer absences and better scores on tests. Those are great results and it's a great start.

Daily Mail Article
Guardian Article

I'd love to see someone do the same with a vegetarian/vegan foods campaign. I think the kids (and everyone else) would flourish a great deal more, even if they only chose vegetarian meals sometimes. But man, just thinking about the push-back Jamie is getting with simply changing the foods from processed to healthy and not even taking away the meat but just replacing it, wow, that will be one heck of a battle. It simply comes down to following food guidelines that make no sense, insufficient funding, and not enough labor in his case, but in a campagin to add vegetarian options it would be all that AND resistance to the idea of plant-based foods. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) agreed that the vegan diet is perfectly healthy for all ages. Now to get everyone else on board.


Duke said...

I've only watched the first episode of Oliver's US TV show so I can't say what effect, if any, he's had on Britian school diets.

I did notice he never mentioned we once had healthy school food. When I was a kid in the 60's we had cooks who roasted fresh turkeys, cooked beans, and bought fresh veggies each day. We had milk to drink. No vending machines or fast food were allowed anywhere on the school grounds. You couldn't buy a soda for any price nor did we ever see a french fry, milkshake, or corn dog. Never once in my years at school was I ever served a pizza or pre-made frozen entree. We had fresh food prepared by real cooks.

The question Oliver should be asking is why we changed. He should be investigating who took a system that once served children healthy food and turned it into a nightmare.

What I saw Oliver addressing were the symptoms of a broken school food program, not the cause behind it. If he's serious about helping the children he will need to change his focus from ridiculing people to looking at the policy level decisions that replaced a healty food system with one very unhealthy.

What I saw, Oliver didn't do that at all; but like I say, I only watched one episode. If he's serious about changing the policy of our school lunch program he needs to pull completely out of Huntington WV and go to Washington DC. That's where the people are who can make the changes he needs to make.

He seems to think our schools serve bad food by accident or ignorance. That's far from the case. The school menus are set with a reason. Someone asks for each item on an order form. The reason why they ask for unhealthy food is the question Oliver needs to answer and it isn't ignorance. You can pick up a healthy menu anywhere for free. They pick unhealthy food because that's the only option they have.

Kenike said...

We changed because of a lot of reasons. Convenience was a biggie. Both parents started working and there were a lot more single parents so convenience food became very popular for families and people got used to those foods and started using them in schools to save on labor and time and money.

I do agree that he was primarily addressing the symptoms, at first. And ultimately to make real progress on this we will need a multi-pronged approach. But I think as he learned more and was met with resistance he saw that, and I think he had plans to take it to Washington anyway because he mentioned taking a kid he meets to Washington with him. He just wanted to make an effort, show what we are up against, and get the American people on his side with this series.

At first I thought the same thing, that this is bigger than he can fix, but I realize he is right, you start where you can, start small, get people on board, and go from there. There will be no overnight changes, except for maybe in the lives he had direct contact with. That still counts.

He is coming in and being an agent for change, because sometimes people need outsiders to shake up a system. I think that is what he is going for. He is getting them to question why things are the way they are, as he tries to figure it out for himself too. But a lot of what he is getting in return is not explanation but things like "because that is how it is. because that is how it has always been." Not real answers. And maybe some of that stuff has been off camera.

Anyway, I don't know that you will like him any better in later episodes, but I would recommend watching past the first one because in the first episode he was rather cocky and thinking he knew it all after his work with the British system. And in the second and third he is a bit more humble and realizes we are a whole nother ball of wax. At least, that is what I see.

Duke said...

I think you are under the mistaken impression Oliver is educating those people in Huntington WV. That he is bringing new programs to them for healthy eating. He is not.

Check out this link on the "Healthy Tristate" program sponsored by the Cabel Huntington Hospital. It has been going on for years. Notice it has a "Biggest Loser" competitiion in year 2 already. Look at the links about the hospital sponsoring improved school menus and other healthy diet programs.

Cabel is only one hospital and there are many others. That area has dozens of these programs from other hospitals, community groups, and even within the school system.

Oliver is not bringing those people anything new. Not one thing. He's grandstanding, making money off ABC, and giving you the impression he's a hero when in fact he's a carpetbagger exploiting those people for his own gain.

The programs Oliver claims to champion have been going on up there for years, decades even. They are being implemented by professional nutricianists and not talk show cooks. Oliver has no qualifications to run his mouth. He's doesn't have a PHd in anything.

But others do, and they have been activly putting programs in place in Huntington for many years.

Oliver is just trying to exploit people for a buck.

Kenike said...

I don't think I was under that impression.

I think two things: one, he is trying to teach the school personnel (and some families and the community) how to COOK healthy and still come in under budget. This is not the same as nutrition, though some of that has come up slightly. He's merely trying to eliminate the processed foods and replace it with fresh foods. If I thought he was trying to teach nutrition I'd still think he had it wrong because he does not endorse a mostly vegetarian diet and he has said nothing about high fiber, low fat or anything of that nature.

Two, he IS bringing attention to the problem. Sometimes we just have to have celebrities get on a cause before we start to pay attention. It's a sad fact. So no matter what all those awesome programs are doing, some people won't think anything about it until some celebrity comes along and says...hey, look at this. And I still believe in the power of an outsider initiating change.

I'm definitely not saying what he is doing is fabulous, because I see what you mean about him and ABC as firmly ensuring that everything is good TV, with a side of trying to help people. And while he may not have conducted himself perfectly, and the water may be deeper than he anticipated, I do think he really is trying to help. It may or may not be what Huntington or America needs or a perfect package, and we might learn that, but he is trying.

I'm just passionate about the cause, and hoping he can help somehow. I'm trying to hold out my opinion until I not only see the finale of the series, but also long term results. Britain had some, it might be possible Huntington and the rest of America get some too.