Monday, April 5, 2010

Food Inspiration

When I was in graduate school most nutrition conversations centered on one of two things either vanity or hospitals. Things started to change a few years ago thanks in part to important voices such as Marion Nestle and Michael Pollan. Nurtition started to be less about diet books and more about dire changes. Today, there’s no way to extricate nutrition and health. We see nutritional issues in the health care bill, our first lady taking on nutrition as her primary cause and just today two of the pieces in the Op-Ed section of the New York Times were about nutrition (one about school lunches and one about food producers). It’s no surprise then that a new T.V. show about a chef attempting to change the foodscape in a school system, in what was could be called the obesity capital of the United States, is creating more than a little buzz.

The title of the show is Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and it airs Friday nights on ABC. Due to travel, I missed the first two episodes but heard about them. Clients and friends were asking for my opinion, twitter was full of praise for the show, people were paying attention. I DVRed Friday’s episode and watched it last night. I think people’s eyes can glaze over when they hear about school lunches. There’s no turning away when you see it in action. In my day-to-day work I am surrounded my people who want to know more about nutrition, who want to be proactive and want to improve their heath. This is certainly not the case in Huntington, W.V. At one point in the show Jamie Oliver cooked a meal for the high school students’ lunch line. He made an Asiany noodle dish with 10 different fresh vegetables. He also made chicken teriyaki to go with it. It was the best looking school lunch I’ve ever seen. It looked kid-friendly and colorful. Mr. Oliver was pulled aside by the director of food service. “There’s not enough vegetable’s in that meal to make it reimbursable.” Mr. Oliver mentioned that boatload of veggies or as he said “veg” that went into the meal. She said it didn’t meet the quota and had to change it. Her solution, adding French fries to the meal. It was absurd and so sad, I wanted to shake her through my television set.

The second part of the show focused on a group of teens who had volunteered to work with Mr. Oliver. One of these teenagers had lost her father and uncle to complications of obesity. Another boy saw learning to cook as an escape from an unfocused childhood replete with behavior issues. Mr. Oliver leads these novice cooks as they prepare a meal for the movers and shakers of Huntington. While we’re all aware of how good food and nutrition can improve our health, suddenly the people attending this dinner and viewers watching on T.V. saw how improved food choices and cooking can change lives. I was sobbing!

I am not sure what Mr. Oliver is doing is completely new or revolutionary. I think it’s important, it’s receiving a lot of attention and brings to life  a lot of what we have been hearing about. I would urge you to sign the petition if you are in support of these changes. Over 173,000 people have already done so and numbers like that are hard to ignore.

Have you seen Food Revolution? What were the most shocking or eye-opening things you noticed?


  1. There have been several moments that stick with me from watching Food Revolution;
    1. The absolute lack of motivation and personal responsibility for one's own health.
    2. The denial or oblivian of people to notice what they are doing to themselves and their children.
    3. The nasty chicken "muck" the kids were disgusted by, but ate anyway.

    FYI-You can watch all the episodes on

    Eat Well,

  2. This show kills me, and I'm so glad that you caught it. If you can, try to watch the first 2 episodes. There were two incidents that brought me to tears in the first shows. First, a group of little kids were shown by Jamie the really gross way chicken nuggets are made. The kids were repulsed. When he asked the kids if they would eat that mess, they all said yes because it was a chicken nugget. The second incident: lunch ladies were horrified that the lower school kids would be given food that required a knife and fork. Not only did the school not have knives and forks for the kids to use (which then reminds us that the kids aren't served food that requires utensils), but most of the kids weren't comfortable using knives and forks. Some of the kids were as old as ten. I cried.

    As someone who works in schools and visits a lot of colleges, I am obsessed w/ food served at schools. What's out there is really bad. (I'm thinking about writing a blog reviewing colleges only through the lens of campus and off-campus foods. It may be interesting only to me.) It's unnecessarily difficult to follow your very reasonable food plan at school, and that just doesn't make sense.

  3. Thanks for the comments. It's funny I thought the show would be exciting and a prototype for others to follow and much of what people discuss is what's upsetting: the denial, lack responsibility, inability to use silverware etc. I will check out other episodes though what I saw was hard to stomach!

  4. While my comment focused on the troubling things I saw in the first episodes, the episode on Friday changed my perspective to a much more positive one. I fell in LOVE with the teenagers who cooked for Jamie! I wanted to change careers after seeing them. Now I want to help underprivileged kids find their calling in the kitchen and the culinary world. Seriously, seeing those teenagers, especially the one w/ anger issues, talk about positive impact of cooking was amazing. And what a long-lasting way to impact a community. Those kids will influence their peers and the adults at home with the skills and knowledge they are gaining. At my school, the show has started a conversation about healthier choices that people found "frivolous" before. If nothing else, that's a positive change.

  5. Lauren, All of the episodes of Food Revolution are available on Hulu. They post them online after they are shown on TV. (Wouldn't want you to miss those first few episodes!)