‘Revolution’ off to contentious and hopeful start

Jamie OliverThe ABC preview of “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” Sunday night has me modestly hopeful that ordinary Americans — those largely untouched by the movement to improve diet and agriculture — might watch and learn.

“Revolution” puts reality TV’s conflict-based formula to work by sending celebrity chef Oliver to Huntingon, West Virginia, to revolutionize the local diet. Residents in the city, which the Centers for Disease Control identified as the nation’s unhealthiest (AP via MSNBC), aren’t impressed by the smarty-pants Brit, and the story’s questions fall into place:

  • Will Oliver get pizza-loving children at an elementary school to eat his from-scratch food?
  • Will Oliver be able to produce those meals on budget and in keeping with the perverse USDA rules on school menus?
  • Will he be able to win the skeptical and defensive cafeteria workers to his side (while he patronizingly addresses them as “love” and “girls”)?
  • Will one family revolutionize its diet to the benefit of its three overweight or obese children? And how will Dad react when he comes home from his current over-the-road trucking assignment?
  • Will he lure hundreds of people to his storefront to learn how to cook?

The odds seem stacked against him, no surprise to any SOLE food proponent: The processed food devolution has been easy and cheap, and Americans love easy and cheap; Americans don’t like outsiders telling them what to do; and change is hard for most people.

Oliver, though, has experience in changing school menus. His School Dinners campaign in England, in fact, got validation last year when researchers found that students eating his healthier menus performed better on standard tests (see, for example, The Daily Telegraph). Also, he’s found an ally in a local preacher distressed at the untimely deaths of congregation members due to diet-related health problems.

FoodRevmed_2346I’m eager to find out what happens, and I hope you will encourage your friends, relatives and acquaintances with awful diets to give the show a try. They might accidentally learn something useful while enjoying the show.

The preview will be repeated at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 26, with the second episode following at 9 p.m. on your local ABC station. Full episodes will be available for on-line viewing on ABC’s website.

6 Responsesto “‘Revolution’ off to contentious and hopeful start”

  1. johnmc says:

    The way he addresses the cafeteria workers isn’t meant to be condescending. It’s merely a common idiom from where he grew up. Were he from Bristol rather than Essex, he’d be addressing them as “my lover”. No harm is meant.

    As far as my own feelings on the matter, anything that gets our kids eating something other than pre-packaged and processed muck is alright by me.

  2. Emma Alvarez says:

    +1 to Johnmc’s comments!

    The only good thing I can say about cafeteria food in public schools is that for some kids it’s all they eat. However, that makes what he is doing all that much more important.

  3. Daniel Ezell says:

    We enjoyed the show last night on Hulu. Then we watched his TED Wish talk. Don’t miss it.

  4. Trent McNair says:

    Jamie Oliver has successfully done it in England.  Pressure from his show there (Jamie’s School Dinners) prompted Tony Blair to cave under public pressure to change how they were poisoning…er, feeding school children: to the tune of $1B to re-train and properly equip the schools to serve ‘real’ food.  It’s not the first time that Hollywood takes a success story from overseas and re-purposed it for a U.S. audience.  But in my opinion this is one worth watching. 

    One thing about Jamie is his passion for this cause.  Follow that link above and you’ll see what I mean.

  5. Janet says:

    Johnmc & Emma, we’re of a mind, I think, where food is concerned, but, trust me, when someone uses pet names to address a stranger who is 20 years older than he is, his doing so will frequently be viewed as disrespectful or condescending.  Ask your parents.

    Daniel, thanks for the link to the TED talk.

  6. sara says:

    I really hope that Mr. Oliver at least gets parents talking about the food their children are eating in school cafeterias.  If the show serves as a catalyst for conversation, that’s a start.