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The Food Revolution Has Been Televised

This spring on national television, British celebrity chef, restaurateur, and food system revolutionary Jamie Oliver filled a school bus with sugar.* The white stuff poured over seats and out of windows, piling into three foot drifts outside the bus as a handful of school parents looked on, speechless. The sugar represented the total amount in Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) milk every week. “Yeah, I’m trying to make it dramatic!” Oliver shouted, “Because I want people to care!” Oliver was dismayed that more parents weren’t there to witness the stunt. “Maybe coming to LA was a big mistake,” he lamented.

Oliver’s crusade for better school food began in England, where he got £2 billion voted into the budget for cooked from-scratch meals in 2005. Last year he launched Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution in the U.S., accompanied by an ABC television series filmed in small-town West Virginia that went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Reality TV Program. For this year’s season of Food Revolution Oliver had hoped to film inside cafeterias and a large food processing center in the LAUSD. But he was blocked by the school board, or more specifically, Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

To hear the media tell it Jamie Oliver has had a rough year. In addition, some food activists have been critical of Oliver’s show and methods. But to see 2011 as a failure for Oliver is to miss the point of his mission. It’s not to dominate American television ratings or even to directly influence food policy. Oliver’s mission is to ignite and expand an army of food revolutionaries in the U.S. who will drive change themselves. With the full force of his celebrity and national exposure he continues to be spectacularly effective in recruiting food activists. Read more

Nourish: Teaching About the Food System

The big news out of California this past week was all about the premiere of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Season 2. This controversial show, which has plenty of detractors from within the food movement, is nonetheless the most successful effort to bring the food movement into larger public awareness that I’ve seen so far. But the same week a quieter food revolution was rolling along the West Coast: The launch of Nourish California. Read more

Where The Food Revolution Begins

When Jamie Oliver set out to change the eating habits of people in Huntington, West Virginia, he cut up a whole raw chicken in front of a group of school children. He started by removing the breasts, legs, and wings and separating them from the leftover carcass. Then he asked the children which pile contained the best parts of the chicken, and they pointed to the good pile. Then he put the other pile, the skin and carcass, in a blender and pulverized it. When he told the kids those were the parts used to make chicken nuggets, they all said, “Ewww!” But when he formed the blended bone and cartilage into patties, fried them, and asked who would like one, a bunch of hands shot up. Read more

Introducing the FoodCorps

With one in three children (and one in two children of color) overweight or obese in this country, the health of America’s kids is under the microscope and, for the first time in our history, children born now will not live as long as their parents. Michelle Obama has launched her Let’s Move campaign, and chef Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution brought the school cafeteria to television. But as Oliver’s program showed, one of the biggest barriers to changing kids’ health outcomes is a lack of dedicated labor and expertise.

That is where FoodCorps comes in, an AmeriCorps program that would put service members to work building school gardens and establishing farm-to-school relationships in towns across the United States, specifically in places lacking regular access to fresh produce. A collaboration between the National Farm to School Network, Slow Food USA and other groups, the FoodCorps team has raised more than $215,000 from the Kellogg Foundation and AmeriCorps to develop the program, which could begin as early as 2011. Read more

Let’s Ask Marion: Does The USDA Stand for an Ultra Silly Dietary Agenda?

With a click of her mouse, EatingLiberally’s Kerry Trueman corners Dr. Marion Nestle, NYU professor of nutrition and author of Pet Food Politics, What to Eat and Food Politics:

KT: Monday’s New York Times had an editorial supporting the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, a bill that would give the US Agriculture Department “new powers to set nutritional standards for any food sold on school grounds, particularly junk foods that contribute to obesity.”

The current standards leave a lot to be desired, as Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution has revealed. In the first episode, Jamie stood accused of shortchanging the kids on carbohydrates because he omitted the bread from a meal that already included rice.

Last Friday, in episode three, Jamie found himself charged with the violation of “insufficient vegetables,” despite the fact that his noodle-based entree featured seven different vegetables. The remedy? Add a bunch of french fries to the meal to meet the veggie quota.

How did the USDA’s school lunch standards ever get so nutritionally nutty? Would passage of the CNA support the wholesome, made-from-scratch meals that Jamie Oliver’s trying to bring back to our cafeterias? Read more

Jamie Oliver Turns the Spotlight On Our Own Homegrown Heroes

The heated debate over health care reform sparked a slew of nasty name-calling from folks who fear that their taxpayer dollars could somehow wind up financing an abortion, a practice that they equate with murder.

But aren’t our taxpayer dollars already killing our children? That’s essentially the premise of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution reality show, which debuts on ABC tonight.

The first episode (which had a sneak preview last Sunday and can also be viewed online) highlights the dismal state of our school lunch program, which is woefully underfunded, hamstrung by ham-fisted USDA guidelines, and far too dependent on government-subsidized processed foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. Read more

Jamie Oliver: Stirring Up a Food Fight

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution is cooking up more than home made meals from fresh ingredients. The show has already stirred up deeply seeded emotions about school food feeding systems…all before the first episode airs tonight!

Conversations and critiques over Jamie Oliver’s 6-part U.S. reality TV show has created quite a cacophony on listservs and talk shows, including Letterman and Oprah. The Washington Post already gave a negative review. So I can’t help but chime in, as should you. (teaser, there will be an opportunity below for possible ABC air time if you want to voice your opinion) Read more

TED Talks Food: Broadcasting Voices and Ideas To The Public

TED is a non-profit devoted to broadcasting innovative ideas spoken by persuasive thinkers. Its website spreads information through “TED talks,” a video component that spans a wide range of topics. Here is a selection of TED videos focusing on issues from the political food world—child obesity, industrial meat production, school nutrition programs, ecologically safe fish farming, food access within an urban landscape, re-envisioned permaculture—presented by some of the top enthusiasts and specialists. Read more

Jamie Oliver at TED: On a Mission to Feed Kids Better (VIDEO)

This week, Jamie Oliver received a prize of $100,000 from TED, a non-profit about spreading ideas, for his efforts in bringing attention to the obesity crisis. He also gave a talk at the TED conference, which is famous for their twenty-minute videos. His talk focused on obesity in America, specifically on what kids are eating in schools. After he demonstrated how much sugar a child will consume from drinking milk alone during the elementary school years–using a wheelbarrow–he gave his ideas on improving our food system, saying “We need to re-boot.” Here are Oliver’s points of entry for change, followed by the talk: Read more

Jamie Oliver Talks Gardening on The Leonard Lopate Show

Chef Jamie Oliver was on The Leonard Lopate Show today to talk about his new book and Food Network show called Jamie at Home.  The premise of the book is to encourage home gardening, and interspersed within the tantalizing recipes are tips anyone can follow for growing tomatoes, zucchini, rhubarb, strawberries, potatoes and more.  The recipes follow the seasons, and focus on the specific ingredients you learn to grow in the pages. Read more